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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Cold front 2.

I was right about the cold front, temperature tomorrow will range from minus one to a maximum of 12 degrees Celsius. To some of you in the northern hemisphere, this might not seem very cold, but to us here in this part of Natal this is positively Artic weather. This cold weather will persist until next week Thursday.

Took this photo of the same cloud formation, as in the earlier post, now pointing, west, north west. 

Looks like an arrow pointing at the heart of the country. Harbinger of bad news but beautiful non the less.

If you painted something like that, it would be called kitsch. But when God does some finger painting, it can't be beat.

Cold front

Took the dogs for a walk this morning. While sitting on the dam wall of the bottom dam I noticed this cloud formation to the south. This type of cloud, at about 30,000 feet, always means an approaching cold front.

Strange how bad weather always times itself to coincided with the approaching weekend! Not that it bothers me at the moment, I still have two and a half weeks holiday left. Can already feel a drop in temperature, 16h00.


Took a trip to Grantchester dam on Defence farm in the Kamberg valley yesterday. There were two other club members, Jan and John, who arrived just after me also fishing. I proceeded to fish the south shore and they fish the north shore. Between the three of us we caught one rainbow trout and it wasn't me.  I had several takes on the wiggle tail fly, but all right at the end of the retrieve, just when my concentration was starting to slip. Jan caught his fish just as he was preparing to lift the fly off the water to cast. He was more surprised than the fish.

I sat for a long while eyeing a fish who hung in the water not two rod lengths away. The fish was facing me. How to cast a fly to it without spooking it, the water was very clear, that's why I was sitting.(to keep a low profile and hope the fish don't see me). Not so easy casting any distance from a sitting position. Anyway the fish solved my dilemma by disappearing with a flick of his tail.

Took the following to photos on the way to Grantchester. Click on photos to enlarge.

Winter landscape. Blue gums in the foreground, and Natal stretching away to the north.

Note the fire break starting from the bottom left hand corner of the photo. According to law all fire breaks have to be burned before the end of this month. When burning fire breaks a land owner has to inform all his neighbours. By the middle of next month the winds start to blow and veld fires are a regular occurrence. A run away fire can cause huge damage and endanger lives and property. 

During the fire season people do not readily leave their farms, but keep a watch for fires which have to be tackled immediately to prevent them getting out of hand.

The next photos are of Grantchester dam. Everything was reflected in the water.

Upside down trees in their winter bareness.
The view above I found particularly intriguing, the repetition, in the water, of patterns, texture and variations of brown. Taken across the water and over the Dam wall. On the hill in the top right hand corner, is where the owner of the farm has a vulture restaurant. Any animals that die on the farm, or any offal from when he slaughters something, is left here for the vultures. 

Grantchester is a large piece of water, in a steep sided valley, so it is quite deep. The club only allows four rods at a time to fish this piece of water. Although a dozen could fish it and you wouldn't notice them they would be so spread out. Yesterday was one of the few time that I got there and others were also fishing it.

Those out there who like to tie their own flies might like to go to this link Some interesting flies there this month

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Mother Nature?

One of my pet peeves is the term "Mother Nature." Many, if not most, fly fishing writers use this term, as if there is actually a persona out there called Mother Nature, that organises and nurtures nature.  The term is itself Ontological nonsense, (Ontology, philosophical term for the study of being). Mother nature has no being and does not exist. 

 Above is some artists depiction of mother nature, all bounty seems to flow from her.

 Another depiction, here she is shown as the Queen of Heaven, in control of everything. (?)

Isis the Egyptian goddess of heaven.

The Prophet Jeremiah warned the Israelites against the worship of the goddess of heaven, such worship was described in the Bible as adultery.

Jer.7:18 - 19. "The children gather wood, their fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and makes cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger. But am I the One they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame." 

This is all part of modern man's worship of creation and his refusal to worship the Creator. If you worship the Creator of all things you acknowledge His authority and you have to submit to, and obey his laws. This modern man refuses to do. Rather worship something that does not exist, something that is as immoral as you would like to be.

So called mother nature, or mother earth, is mentioned in the Bible under the names Ishtar and Ashera. Goddess of fertility and sexuality. 

Details on the Ishtar vase, Louvre, wearing ceremonial headdress and not much else.

Ashera, clay figurine. Also in the Louvre.

Herodotus gives the following description of the worship of this goddess in Mesopotamia.

Every woman had to make a sexual sacrifice once in her life to Ishtar/Ashera. This meant she had to go to the temple and have sex with the first man who threw money in her lap. She could not refuse, no matter how little money was offered, or who the man was, that would be a sin as this money was now "holy". Sexually attractive women usually got their religious duty done in one day. Those poor souls who were not so attractive might have to go to the temple day, after day for years, before their sacrifice was made.

Temple prostitution was considered a proper form of worship.

Donald A Mackenzie described them "as cruel as they were wayward." 

This is the sort of deity modern man wants to worship?

Many don't really know what they are saying when they use the term "mother nature."

Another term to describe the same thing is the so called Gaia principle, that the whole planet is a living organism, not only that, but that it is holy and should be revered, if not worshipped. 

Max More ,wants us to believe that we are the product of mother nature X evolution. If you want to read some humanist stupidity go to .

Someone once wrote, "Mother Nature is a cold hearted bitch who dresses her offspring in scanty apparel."

As someone who's main form of recreation, fly fishing, takes place in nature, I believe we should all do our bit to conserve and protect it. But worship it? Never.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Winter days

Today was one of those perfect winter days we have here in this part of the world. The temperature in the mornings, here in our district, have ranged from -2 degrees Celcius to -6 degrees. And some places have had very hard frost. Here where I live, on a north facing slope, it hasn't been so bad, although yesterday my dogs water dish, was surrounded by a hallo of ice from splashes of the dripping tap.

The air is literally like champagne, so fresh and exhilerating, and the sky an unbeleiveable blue. I tried to capture this blue of the sky in the following photos.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Took this photo looking north, but the sun in the west washes out some of the blue in the sky.

This photo was taken east, south east. and the blue of the sky is more pronounced. The trees in the left of the picture should have very few leaves at this time, but the late rains and lack of frost has kept them green, even the lawn is still green. The shrub in foreground is a succulent that flowers in the winter. Certain small birds love to nest in it's thick foliage.

This last photo taken through the bare branches of the mulberry tree really show how blue the sky was today.

This last photo is a repeat of the one above, but taken about an hour later at sunset, just liked the contrasts between shadow and light.


Stained glass, StJohn'sAshfield, The Good Shepard.

I like to think that I'm not a hypocrite, but the Lord's standard makes me wonder some times.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this persons religion is worthless. James 1: 26.

It's so easy to speak without thinking, to judge.

Whoever says " I know Him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1 John 2:4.

His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. Psalm 55:21.

I think we've all come across the one above, but aren't we all like that sometimes, saying one thing but meaning something else. 

If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:21.

The last one is particularly hard, there are so many "unlovable" brothers. But God will accept no excuses on this one!

With God there is no compromise.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


Photos of Brackenwaters taken on the 16th June 2011, as mentioned in a previous post.

Click on photos to enlarge.

A view along the dam wall looking north. An avenue of plane trees on the horizon.

View from the dam wall looking east, the ubiquitous Kamberg looming in the background. Acres of water.

My fly line can be seen floating on the water.
A view from the southern shore looking north east.

Great water to explore on a float tube.

This water provides great bass fishing in the summer and rainbow trout in the winter. In the summer this stretch of water is home to hundreds of water birds, duck, Egyptian & spurwing geese, coots, and many more.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Going home.

Today is the start of our 3 weeks winter holiday and children that are in our school hostel have to go home. The Italian leprechaun and I took some of the hostel learners home today in one of the schools mini buses. Apart from going home at the holidays, the children get taken home every third week and long weekends.

These children are part of the Education Departments Rural Consolidation plan. Here in KZN we have hundreds of small schools with about 50 learners and 2 teachers. These schools have no proper facilities, sanitation or water. Teachers have to do multi-grade teaching, meaning that one teacher will teach from grades 1 - 4 and the other will teach grades 5 - 7. This is never a satisfactory situation and most of these learners never make high school. Thus they have very little chance of finding employment and the cycle of poverty continues.

Happiness is going home.

The rural consolidation means that these small non viable schools are closed, the teachers are allocated to bigger schools, and the leaner's are sent to schools such as ours that have hostel facilities. The government pays their boarding and school fees, provides uniforms and pocket money. These children come from very poor families who literally have nothing, no work, no income, except what they earn as seasonal workers on farms, there are also child grants for children to the age of 16, about R250pm about US$34.

We were very surprised at their adaptability, the smaller ones, grade R in pre-school and those in grade 1 & 2 shed a few tears, but within days they had settled in and were quite happy. Most of them have very little or no English so we have to teach them a brand new language plus all the rest.

The group we took home today live 90km away in Drakensberg foothills. When we got to the drop off point s their parents and grandparents were waiting for them. They still had a long walk of several kilometres before they got home.

This is where they live. Click on pictures to enlarge.

The buildings in the foreground is the Amphitheater Back Packers Lodge. The area where the children and their families live is in a valley beyond the lodge about 6km. Follow the faint footpath in the foreground (right hand corner of picture) and you will get there.  In the back ground the Drakensberg. On the southern point, (on the left of the picture) is Champagne Castle, with the Outer and Inner Buttresses, and Dome.

Northern end of the Northern Berg, with the sentinel and Amphitheatre. The Amphitheatre lies in the Royal Natal National Park. Named Royal since the Royal families visit here in 1947. Natal is know as the last outpost of the British Empire, we still have quite a few things with the appellation Royal.

Entrance to Amphitheatre Back Packers Lodge.

The greatest shoal on Earth.2.

Found some pictures on the Internet re. the sardine run.

The little fish that causes all the excitement.

A shoal of sardines photographed from underneath.

Map showing the location of the Sardine run. After the shoals pass Durban, they turn seaward and disappear. Some people say that they make a circular journey returning to where they came from.

If you look at the map where the Drakensberg turns north west, a little to the north and east of that on the highway shown, is where you would find Estcourt.
Sharks feeding of sardines. The sharks herd the fish into a huge bait ball, chasing them around and around in circles, disorientating them, making sudden dashes into the fish to grab a mouth full. If you wish, there are tour companies that will organise dives for you right into the action.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The greatest shoal on Earth.

Here in KwaZuluNatal we are getting ready for the annual sardine run. This is not some strange race, but shoals of sardines which move up the coast. These tiny fish, about 9 inches long at their longest move up the KZN coast in the millions, if not billions.

Sardines, Sardinops sagax, are cold water fish living in the cold waters of the southern and western Cape coast of South Africa. The Western Cape fishing industry nets about 200,000 tons of these fish annually. During the winter months when the water off the KZN coast cools down, a part of these great shoals migrate up the eastern coast. Why they do this is not clear, there is seemingly no gain in it for them. Yet year after year they come, some years there are less and some years more, but always they come.

These shoals of sardines are followed by thousands of game fish, sharks, dolphins and seals. Great flocks of sea birds also follow these fish, gannets, cormorants and gulls. The game fish, sharks, dolphins and seals attack the sardines from the sides and from below, while the birds dive into them by the thousands from above.

On the shore the human predators are waiting for them. As soon as they are within a couple of hundred meters from the beach small boats go out to surround them with nets. These nets are then pulled in by men standing on the beach. Often these fish are pushed in so close to the shore by game fish, sharks and dolphins, that they beach themselves. This is when the so called sardine fever breaks out.

No one is immune, man, woman, child, of every race, creed and language is infected. Every one rushes into the waves, fully clothed,even shoes are not spared, with any kind of container that can be used to scoop up the fish. No one cares that the sharks have followed the small fish right into the surf zone, sharks and humans ignore each other. There is only one goal, to gorge on the sardines, scoop up as many as you can. When I lived on the coast even I got infected with sardine fever, there is no cure, and no resistance possible. Fortunately it's not fatal. (The first sardine in the pan, frying in some garlic butter, eases the symptoms).

The first pilot shoals have arrived on the KZN south coast and the first sardines netted, a basket of sardines selling for R600, about US$90 (there is a kind of snob value being able to say you got some of the first sardines of the season)(Humans are strange creatures). The newspapers, radio and TV report on the progress of the shoals. When they get close, any one who lives close enough, drops everything and heads for the beach.

In terms of Biomass these sardine shoals could rival the great wildebeest migrations of East Africa. The shoals can be 7 kilometres long, 1.5 kilometres wide, and about 30 metres deep. It is said that they can be seen from outer space.

In recent years this spectacle has become a major tourist attraction with visitors from every corner of the globe. Special boat excursions are organised to follow the shoals and some brave (maybe foolhardy?) souls even dive, with scuba gear, to watch the sharks and game fish attacking the sardines.

One of the great wonders of God's creation.

Google; sardine run KZN South Coast, for more.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Winter Solstice

June 21st is the winter solstice here in the Southern Hemisphere. Tonight will be the longest night of the year, with tomorrow the shortest day. But here in SA shortest day will still mean about 9 hours of sunshine. Then the days start getting longer, but this does not mean that winter is over, our coldest weather still lies ahead.

Day break on the morning of the winter solstice.

About 10 minutes later.

By the end of August the dogs and I can start taking our evening walks to one of the two farm ponds and do some serious bass fishing. Trout fishing in the various still waters will be viable until November, after that it becomes too hot, streams are still an option though as the season for trout fishing in streams opens again in September.

Monday, 20 June 2011

My cat called Cat

Cat is an abandoned cat who used to live in the culvert under the highway behind my cottage. Took me a long time to win his trust and to move in with us. The dogs were no help as they liked to chase him when ever he got close. But with perseverance I got Cat to honour us by becoming part of the family. Been here for about 4 years now.

Cat sitting in the north face lounge window. He spends most of the day here during the winter. This window gets sun from sunrise to sunset during the winter months.

Cat and Tombi sharing the window sill for a Sunday afternoon snooze. Tombi's way of getting off the window sill is to fall off. Cat gets of with more finesse.

When I got Cat I could think of no suitable name, so Cat it was and still is. Cat seems to like it.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Fathers Day

Today is Fathers Day, so congratulations to all the Fathers out there.

Today at church all the men and boys got a special little gift. Attached to the bar of chocolate and sachet of NESCAFE Cappuccino coffee powder was a card with two Bible verses. Each man or boy got a different set of verses.

I would like to dedicate these verses to my Father: Andries, Stephanus, Eksteen, Marais. 1919 - 2001.

These two verses typify the kind of man he was, a loving husband and caring father who walked before the Lord all his life.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:13.

My father had compassion on his children and he feared the LORD.

The steps of a good man are ordered of the LORD and He delights in his way. Psalm 37:23.
 My father in his South African Air Force uniform. He served from the start of World War II, August 1939 to June 1945. Seeing active duty in North Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt & Libya. After the invasion of Italy his squadron, 31st Heavy Bomber squadron, SAAF, equipped with Liberator Bombers, was stationed at Foggia. My father was an air mechanic, part of the ground crew. The squadron flew mission over Eastern Europe from Foggia. After one mission over Warsaw only one plane returned, all the others were shot down, of the planes shot down, only one pilot of returned alive. This mission was the called the Warsaw Concerto.

 My father never spoke much about his war time experiences. He did say that it was one of the saddest moments of his life when he realised that the plane he worked on, and the crew who were his mates, would never return.

The bombers were soon replaced with new planes, and crewed by American and Canadian pilots and crews until replacement South African pilots and crews arrived.

The squadron shared the air base there with several American Air Force units, including an American Negro Fighter squadron. He said they were brave men who knew no fear, the squadron liked to have this fighter squadron escort them on missions.

After VE day he volunteered for service in the Far East, but the Atom Bomb was dropped on Japan before he got there. All South African service men in World War II were volunteers.

The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother. (Quote).,

The love of his life, Rosemary, Daphne, Marais (Nee Kapp) 1927 - 2002. My father served in the same squadron as his father in law to be, that's how he met my mother. This photo was taken when my mother was about 17, (1944).

There is no greater blessing for a child than a good and loving father! 

Thank you Dad.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Bracken Waters & Grantchester

Went trout fishing on Thursday and Friday. Thursday, June 16th is youth day in South Africa and a public holiday. Friday was a school holiday, thus I had a nice long weekend. A friend and ex teaching colleague came to visit from Durban and she wanted to learn how to fly fish. She arrived at about 14:30 Wednesday afternoon and after a quick cup of coffee we went onto the lawn and I started to teach her the basics of casting. What a pleasure to teach someone who is mentally and physically coordinated. It wasn't long before she had the hang of it. Women don't try to force their cast and just have natural rhythm and timing. After about an hour of practice we decided it was time for another cup of coffee and I gave her a simple book on casting so she could get the theory part. Maybe it should have been the other way round but then it would have been to dark to do any casting.

Thursday morning, after a hearty breakfast we took a slow drive to a dam/pond (In SA we also call the water behind the dam wall the dam) called Bracken Waters, a beautiful large stretch of water (about a kilometre wide and two kilometres long) to fish for rainbow trout. This dam has large mouth black bass and trout. I have fished this dam many times in summer for bass and the bass fishing is magnificent, with lots of large hungry bass. The club policy is that you have to remove all bass you catch to reduce their numbers, I find this hard to do, so I cheat a bit.  Anyway this is such a large piece of very fertile water, with lots of structure and weed beds, that there must be thousands of bass. The few you might remove in a days fishing is not going to make much impact on their numbers. Further more, bass are active in summer and trout in winter. In summer trout will seek out the deeper cooler areas and bass will be looking for warmer waters. Trout fingerling's are only stocked in the cooler months so I don't think bass have much of an impact on their numbers. 

This was the first time that I had fished this piece of water in winter for trout. When we got there the wind was blowing quite a gale, but otherwise a beautiful day, with blue sky and temperature about 15 degrees Celsius. I thought that my learner fly fisher woman would be put off by the wind, but she took it in her stride and started casting. Fortunately the wind was from behind and over our left shoulders which helped. Margaret turned out to be a great fishing buddy, no talking just concentrating on the task at hand, casting and retrieving, very slowly. She wanted no further assistance and I could get on with my fishing.

Well to cut a long story short the wind just about blew us off the dam wall and into the water. After about three hours we cut our losses and packed up with out even seeing a fish.

Next morning, which was Friday we went to a different stretch of water, Grantchester on Defence farm. This farm has a long history going back to about the 1840's, when it was established as an outpost to try and stop Bushmen stock theft. Bushmen living in the foothills of the Drakensberg used to pass through this area to raid farms lying lower down. Who settled on this farm originally I don't know, but he must have been a brave man.

Grantchester is a lovely piece of water, situated in a long narrow, steep sided valley, with deep water right on the side, except at the top end where the gradient is not so steep. Again this is a big piece of water about a kilometre + long and more than 500 metres wide at it's widest (at a guess) The wind was again blowing, but not as bad as the day before. I sent Margaret to the northern shore so that she could cast with the wind, and I stayed on the southern shore to fish into the wind.

For quite a while it was as if I could not get into my casting rhythm. After about a half hour of frustration I noticed that I had not threaded my line correctly through the third and second last guides, but that the line actually went over the top of the rod after the third last guide then though the second last guide the over the top again before going through the tip top! How I did that I still don't know, anyway I then corrected the problem and my casting improved, but still not one hundred percent. Then I noticed that I had not put the line through the stripping guide but through the gap between one of the supports and the guide. So off came the fly, pulled the line out and re threaded it once again. 

Now my casting was normal and I managed to get a reasonable distance against the wind. Then the moment all fly fishers wait for, a solid strike and fish on. Once the fish felt the hook it headed down into the depths, taking line. When it stopped I retrieved line, the fish headed for the surface and jumped doing cartwheels before landing with a splash, still on. I shouted to Margaret on the opposite shore, "This ones headed for the frying pan." After a couple of minutes I managed to bring it in quite close and could see it about a metre down. It was a big one at least 2 1/2 pounds or more. The fish made one more run for deep water, then the unthinkable happened. The tippet parted from the leader at the knot. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, my first trout of the season and I lost it. My vocabulary at that moment would have made a sailor blush, and I'm not a man who swears.    

Well I tied on a new tippet and another wiggle tail. By now the wind had changed direction and was blowing from the east down the length of the water, and blowing a gale.  I crossed over on the dam wall to the northern shore. Here the gradient is very steep and the bank drops away right into deep water.  When I got there Margaret was very excited, saying that she had seen lots of fish and they even followed her fly right to the side before suddenly turning away. She also had a wiggle tail on.

I cast and let the fly sink the whole length of the 3 metre leader plus another 1/2 metre tippet, then I slowly lifted my rod making the fly rise to the surface, just before I lifted the fly off the water a trout shot up from the depths a grabbed it. Before I could react it spat it out and was gone. This happened several times and I had several seemingly solid takes only to have the fish shake out the hook. By now the wind was sending waves crashing against the bank and conditions were becoming very unpleasant and casting almost impossible. So we called it a day. 

Well I'm a wiggle tail fly fan and I'm busy tying a whole bunch of them in black, brown and olive.  

And Margaret has been hooked by fly fishing and wants to come again in July.

I took quite a few photos of both stretches of water and surrounding area, but for some reason I can't download them from my camera onto the computer. Which is strange because 2 days ago I downloaded several photos. As soon as I've sorted out this problem I'll post them.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Death of a true Gentleman.

I'm not in a happy place at the moment. Had to take my old dog Rambo to the vet and have him put down. Got home this afternoon and found he could not walk. His old hips had finally packed up.

Rambo lying on his favourite spot in the lounge.

Got Rambo 11 years ago from our local SPCA, a German Shepard cross Rotweiler and about 2 + years old. His name was a misnomer, but that's what he was called when I got him. A real gentle soul not an aggressive hair on his big handsome body.  The 3 ladies in the pack bullied him mercilessly but he never retaliated.

Will bury him tomorrow under the big tree in the yard.

Rest in peace big boy.  

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Transport, 19th Century Natal

When I watch the 18 wheelers roar down the four lane highway behind my cottage, I wonder if anyone ever thinks what it was like to transport goods around Natal 140 years ago. Today you can travel hundreds of kilometres on four lane highways and other secondary roads, where all of natures obstacles have been overcome. Back in the 1870's just moving about was an adventure, and a test of fortitude.

I came across this description of ox wagons and the problems that went with their use. 

This photo was taken in the early 20th century, showing typical ox wagons. This was taken at a nagmaal (communion) service. Back then people came in their wagons and camped around the church. 

All commerce moved in ox-drawn wagons which resembled the Conestoga prairie schooners of the American plains. The Boers had trekked in these wagons, and with slight body modifications they were still in use for transport. They were long and narrow, eighteen feet by six, and the great rear wheels, shod with half an inch of iron spanned six feet and were fixed on a solid axle. The smaller front wheels turned on a pivoted axle, and a heavy top of double canvas was spread over wooden hoops fastened to the high sides.The wagons were pegged and lashed together, not only because nails were scarce but also because, a dozen times on a journey, the wagon might have to be broken down and manhandled over obstacles the oxen could not surmount.

A full span of oxen ran from fourteen to eighteen beasts. Less than ten were rarely yoked, for while they might still move the wagon with a ton of goods aboard, they would be stopped by the slightest rise. On steep hills and at drifts where the wheels sank into the mud or sand, double spans were needed, and up to forty oxen might be needed to breast the mountain passes. The beasts were yoked two and two, each in his assigned place, with the strongest pair on the disselboom, from which a stout leather or chain trek touw led forward between the rest to the oldest and most experienced pair in the lead. The driver carried a long whip and rode on a box seat or walked alongside. There were no reins, and a voorlooper, usually a native boy, strode in advance to guide the team.

Two breed of oxen had been developed over the years - short compact beasts of great endurance that were used for long hauls on flat terrain, and a tall breed of enormous strength for sandy country and steep mountain tracks. The teams were matched in colour; the Boers preferred red-and-white or black-and-white animals and had an aversion to white or slate-gray oxen. Every adult Boer owned such a span, and he was not secure in his manhood until he had it. The owner of a wagon and a trained team was a person of consequence; he had a roof and a livelihood, and all Africa was his to choose a home from.

Within the limitations imposed by their digestive tracts, such spans did excellent work. An ox required eight hours a day to graze, and a further eight hours to rest while the results of his grazing passed through his multiple stomachs and was regurgitated as cud for a second leisurely mastication. This left eight hours a day for work, during which a full fresh span might move more than a ton of goods at a steady three miles and hour along a level road. If a team was kept spanned for the full eight hours, it would need several days to recover from the experience, and the teams were usually outspanned for a couple of hours at midday. Under ideal conditions, this meant that a wagon might move as much as eighteen miles in a day, but since there were hardly eighteen miles of surfaced level road in all of southern Africa, few wagons ever covered more than ten miles a day. A stony track, a sandy drift, or a rainstorm might reduce might reduce progress to three or four miles, or even stop it entirely. A broken disselboom or a snapped trek tow would cost a full day, a smashed wheel or a broken wooden axle might take a week to repair. The wagons could hold up to four tons, but no one ever loaded more than one, since the wagons might have to be unloaded and reloaded several times a day in bad country.

Excerpt from: Washing of the spears, 1967. Donald R Morris.

One of the amazing things about a trained span of oxen happened at the inspaning, or yoking. Each ox had it's specific place in the team. The trek tow, (made of plaited rawhide thongs, later an iron chain) with the yokes laid out and attached to the trek tow on either side of it. The oxen were rounded up and driven to the wagon, where each ox went and stood in it's specified place to the left or right of the trek tow. There was no need to chivied them into place, they just knew where to go.

The old pioneers were a tough breed, weather in South Africa, America or Australia, or any other place you care to name. Today it's very easy for us to criticise them. You often hear people saying if only our forefathers had done this, or done that, we would not have had the problems we battle with today. Hindsight is a perfect science, back then people were using all their energy and wits just to survive.

Oxen being trained to work in a span. The oxen used here are from the Afrikaner breed of cattle.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Monthly trip

The Italian leprechaun and I took our monthly trip to Pietermaritzburg this morning. We travelled in his car, which is a Ford KA. Someone said the other day that it looks like a computer mouse on steriods.

Just before going onto the highway we stopped and I took a couple of photos of the snow on the Drakensberg mountains.

Click on photo to enlarge.

Not the best vantage point from which to take a photo. The front of the Berg is very steep,almost vertical, so not much snow sticks there. On top, which is a plateau, the snow will be several feet deep. On the northern slopes the snow will melt very quickly. Trout fishermen like lots of snow on the Berg, this will mean good stream flows in the spring, making for good fishing.

This photo taken almost from the same position as the one above shows a small section of the lake behind the Wagendrift dam. The dam is built on the spot where ox-wagons used to cross the Bushmans river in the 1800's. Hence the name. (Drift is Afrikaans for a ford)

Interior of the temple of Mammon. One thing that struck me was that the smaller the shop, the less goods it had on display, and the higher the prices. 

We did our shopping, stopped at the Mug & Bean coffee shop, had a good breakfast and their bottomless cup of coffee, served by friendly and efficient waiters. The service can only be described as slick. The food very good and the coffee fantastic.

On the way out I took this photo of a small part of the parking lot. No one drives an old car any more, every car I saw was new. I must be the only person who drives a car older than 5 years.(actually mine is 28 years old). 

In the background you see the hills that surround Pietermaritzburg, covered in plantations of SA Pines and Blue gums. These plantations belong to the municipality. Due to the fact that the town lies in a hollow it gets extremely hot and humid in the summer.

The N3 highway near Lions River. This part of Natal is known as the Midlands.

The last stretch heading home. The Wagendrif dam lies at the bottom of the valley on the left. Turn off to my cottage is on the left at the top, after turning left we turn right over bridge crossing the highway, then it's only a couple of hundred metres, and home.

Wagendrift dam, photo taken as we drove past. Note the uprights of the bridge railings slanted to the right. They are actually vertical. The Italian Leprechaun gave me a physics lesson as to why this happened in the photograph, not that I understood any of it. (I'm a librarian not a mathematician).

Today was one of those perfect winter days we have here in Natal. Blue skies, bright sun and warm. Last week was cold, overcast, with lots of rain, all the staff at school were walking around with long glum faces, complaining about the weather. We are not used to real winters here. I think tonight will be very cold though, clear skies means frost at night.

If tomorrow is like today it means good trout fishing weather. Think I'll bunk church and go fishing, give Mark's wiggle tail flies a try. Starting to feel guilty already, but I think I'll get over it.