Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The new stadium from the water. 
Just so you know that cruising is not all fun and games I will give you an idea of the last few days in Durban.  The marina is full and the holding in the anchorage is not great. In South Africa at this time of year there are systems that come out of the southern oceans, they roar around the Cape of Good Hope and up the east coast.  It is very important to time your voyages so  that you are not caught in the Aguallas current which flows south along the east coast when there is a big south westerly blowing. Wind against current is just ugly  and you get choppy short seas, 20 meter waves have been recorded on this coast.  We have been stuck at anchor in a poor anchorage for over a week.  There were 17 boats stuck, in a small space, so boats are closer than normal and the anxiety level is ratcheted up.  One boat was continually dragging, we think his anchor was not big enough.  One day he left his boat and it started dragging backwards onto another yacht whose the owner was also ashore.  Four boatloads of cruisers got together and we had 2 dinghies on the back moving the boat forward, another dinghy with the biggest motor to push the bow back and forth. when the wind caught it. and there were 2 men on the bow pulling up the anchor.  We re-anchored it, saved it from a collision.  Thank heaven the dragger found an spot to tie up in a marina 10 miles up the river and left the 
Durban's Convention Centre
The next day the wind really kicked up and we were stuck on the boats.  The boat beside us had a lot of windage and in the gusts, which were up to 50 knots he would veer sideways in an alarming manner and head towards us. His dinghy was tied up on the back and looked like it would take off, the whole front of the dingy was out of the water only the heavy motor at the back was stopping it from flipping.  Barry sat up on deck for 4 hours from 1700 to 2100 in the rain and wind watching to make sure we weren't going to drag.  We only had about 20 meters of good water behind us, so if the anchor let go we would have had to be very quick to get the engine going before we went aground. The wind just howled in the rigging and the boat would heal over in the gusts, that had never happened at anchor before. That was the second blow we had experienced in 4 days.  
Very interesting mural
Yesterday a whole bunch of boats left for points south.  It was very disheartening for me to watch everyone leave.  Barry did not think we could make the next anchorage before another southwesterly would hit.  We got a break though, a space at the marina opened up due to all the boats leaving and we are now tied up to the dock.  Tagish is tied up beside us and tomorrow we are heading up to the Drakensburg mountains to do some hiking and sight seeing.  We couldn't leave the boat before because to the danger of dragging.  There is supposed to be another window opening at 0200 on Sat. morning so hopefully it will stay open and we can head south soon.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pictures of Durban
Cat's-Paw IV at anchor in Durban, ZA

The old with the new

On of the many hotels along the beach, this is called the golden mile.

Very stylish new stadium
We took a bus tour of Durban yesterday.  It is a huge modern city. They have a beautiful new stadium that was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it's a soccer stadium. There is lots of interesting architecture with art deco as well as colonial architecture side by side.  It makes for great pictures. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

We are safe and sound in Durban, it  is a large modern city from what we saw yesterday.  I wanted to share some more pictures of animals and birds with you.  The first ones were all taken by Dorothy on Tagish.  If you want to look at some great pics check out Tagish blog on the link on the side.

The leopard, camouflage or what!!

Resting after he had eaten his fill
           Dorothy took all the great pictures of the big cats!!                        
Black bellied bustard, he was making this amazing clicking noise with his beek
African pygmy goose
some kind of lapwing
ground horn bill
we are at sea. sorry this computer must have too much salt the shift key does not work,so no caps and no upper case punctuation.  we are 20nm from durban, it has been a good passage if a little bumpy.  barry and i both felt a little queasy when we left, that's what a month at a dock will do to you, lose your sea legs. we are going to wait in durban for a 24 hour southwester to blow through on tues or wed then head to port elisabeth the last letter in the alphabet does not work either. we have a haul out booked for dec 15 in cape town and then we will have a slip on dec 22. hope all is well at home.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dorothy behind the counter taking pictures
Box of Condoms
Picture by Dorothy

We were on our way to Swaziland.  The entrance at the border was a piece of cake. Swaziland is a monarchy and there were pictures of the king and the queen mother up on the wall in the immigration office.  Dorothy, an avid photographer, was trying to take a picture of it and could not get a good shot, much to the chagrin of waiting truck drivers she was invited behind the counter to get a better shot.  They also thought it very comical when she took a picture of the box of condoms that was prominently displayed. HIV/AIDS is a terrible killer in Swazi, we read some stats that said of a population of 1.1 million there were 200,000 children who were orphans. 

Myxo, he has been growing his hair for 16 years
I was reading our copy of the Lonely Planet and found a cultural experience that I thought would be worthwhile. We were met the next day in Manzini by a gentleman named Myxo. The first thing he did was teach us some SiSwati/Zulu phrases. 
Doesn't Barry look like he's having a good time!
We practised as we tasted sorghum, a breakfast meal with the same texture as cream of wheat, it is fermented corn and with some sugar, it was quite tasty.  Afterwards we headed to the craft market to practice our unfamiliar words, the language has weird tongue clicks and they slur their h’s by putting their tongue on the top of their mouth with their bottom jaw open and blowing out, it sounds a bit like an s, very difficult for us North Americans. After purchasing a few more potential Christmas presents we headed up into the hills to a village.  
I just look a little goofy in this traditional Swazi outfit, but isn't the girl beside me lovely

We drove up over a very bumpy gravel road and were greeted with a vista of green fields, with small clusters of buildings huddled together on the hills. Each cluster was a family group, the grandparents would have a hut, the children live with their parents until they are old enough to joins the boys and girls hut, at adolescents, the sexes are separated, once a young man starts working he would help to build his own hut, there is a cooking hut, a place for the chickens, goats and a pen for the cows. Most of the huts in the village were traditional, mud and rock walls with thatched roofs, if a man is successful in finding a paying job, he would build his wife a brick house with a tin roof. 
A family grouping

We stayed in a traditional  home, there was a nice mattress with only a candle for lighting, very romantic.  We were fed maize, beans, a spinach dish and chicken all cooked on an open fire for supper, it was delicious. 
Our home for 24 hours, the gogo hut!
There was no running water or electricity so Barry very reluctantly had to use an outhouse, but it came with a view (there was no door on it). The tour of the school was the highlight of the trip, the preschoolers were lined up and sang us the Swaziland national anthem as well as “this little light of mine” we were all grinning at them as they sang with enthusiasm. Bongani otherwise known as Bobo took us over to the headman’s compound and we got to meet the grandmother or Gogo.  There is a hut in each family unit that is known as the Gogo hut.  This is neutral ground, if you have a problem you meet in the hut to sort it out, if you want to talk to your ancestors, into the Gogo hut. The best use I heard for it was when the kids are in trouble with their parents, they run to the hut and hide, neutral ground!! We had some marvellous conversations and learned about the SiSwati culture in a far more meaningful way than if we had gone to a museum. you are interested in contacting Myxo go to

We booked the experience at the last minute so we weren't quite sure what we were getting into.  I was completely happy with what unfolded, but the other three had different expectations, for me it was a chance to relax and unwind at the end of a rushed, thrill packed trip.
Cat’s-Paw IV survived our absence and we are planning on leaving tomorrow to head south to Durban or East London. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On to Kruger National Park.....

Barry was at the wheel as we headed down the long dry stretch of road southward through Botswana. The speeds change frequently  so he was zipping along at a sedate 89, the top speed is 120.  Unfortunately it was in a 60 zone and you guessed it, he got caught. (Barry says to tell you that he was within 200m of the 120 sign when he was flagged down).He had to pay on the spot and scooted across the road to see how much it was.  He had to pay in pula the currency in Botswana and we were running short, so he came back to the car and borrowed all the pula that Tagish had, it wasn’t much because we were going to be leaving the country shortly. When he tried to pay the rest of the fine in Rand the police said that they would only accept pula, what to do??????  In typical African fashion, they adjusted the speed that they put on the ticket to 69 so that the amount of pula we had left was sufficient! Barry came back to the car with a huge smile on his face!!
That night we stopped at a really snazzy hotel, the only alternative we could find after the rather dinghy spot we first looked at located in the middle of a dirty downtown. It was way above our price range and we were about to walk out when the clerk asked us what our price range was.  We conferred and agreed on a price that was just more than half of what she first quoted us.  A phone call to the manager later and we were checked in to a swanky hotel, only in Africa, you say. When we went for dinner Barry and I had a glass of red wine, the windows and doors were open to let in the air and the atmosphere of  the beautiful grounds.  A huge moth flew in and fluttered about Barry’s wine glass, the waitress was setting the table and as I waved my hands at the moth he took a nose dive into Barry’s wine, after a little sip, he flew off , he was so big he barely fit into the glass. The waitress actually had to ask the manager if she could bring Barry a new glass, he of course, was tempted to swig down most of the rest of the wine but managed to resist!!!
A jackal                           
The next day we dead headed for Krueger National Park hoping to be able to spend the night there, no go. It was the weekend so most of the spots that we would be able to reach before dark were full and they do not allow you to drive after dark in the park. You also are not supposed to get our of your car except in designated picnic spots which are fenced.  Over the next 3 days we slowly made our way south through the park encountering herds of elephants playing in the water, wildebeest hiding under a tree to get out of the sun, zebras eyeing us with great curiosity, uncounted teams of impalas nervously twitching their ears as we inched by.  Thanks to Anne, our guide on our first tour, we had a good idea how to look for game and managed to spot some real treasures. 
We saw a leopard the first day we were in the park, someone had seen it walking along and was still watching it.  We would never have seen it if the South Africans had not pointed it out to us. What a thrill, we could now say we had seen the big five!!
Chewing on the remains of a wildebeeste
The next day about 5 km from the park entrance we came upon five lions tearing away at a recent kill.  It was RIGHT beside the road, within 10m.  What a truly awesome experience, to watch these magnificent animals growling at each other over their part of the kill.  A big male had finished first and we saw him saunter off to digest his meal under a tree, then the alpha female (I think) wandered away. She lay out of sight in the tall grass, then turned on her back and flaked out with one foot in the air, the tail occasionally whipping away the flies. We could hear the sound of the lion’s teeth scraping on the bones of the wildebeest, we were that close. 
We felt privileged to see this interaction
We happened on two young male elephants playing in the water.  At first we weren’t sure  if they were serious but as the diorama went on it was clear they were just practising for the real thing.  They were up to their knees and sometimes their bodies in water, they would engage each other with their tusks and push.  At times they would become almost totally submerged and their trunks looked like snorkels. It was fascinating watching this interaction. 
We saw one more leopard, you could only see his neck and head, occasionally he/she would turn it’s head but it was very intently watching something over a rise.  There was almost road rage with all the vehicles jockeying for  position to get a good look and more importantly a good picture.

The male went back to check on the heavily pregnant female
We were so excited to spot a group of hyenas, they are magnificent animals, they would continually lope along the road.  We followed the one for quite awhile and he seemed quite blasé about our presence, but would not stop and cooperate  so we could get a good picture.  A new strategy was needed, we motored past him and stopped, sure enough he approached the car from behind, stopped to check us out and then loped past us.  A little ways down the road we came upon two heading out of the bushes, there was a male and a heavily pregnant female.  She went across the road and then just lay down, staring up at us, I wonder if she was in labour.   I could empathize with her condition and as I watched her I almost felt her tiredness and wish that the birth would commence. 
We stayed the night in Kruger, going on a night safari.  We learnt some fascinating facts about the elephants digestive system. There were night creatures on the prowl, little weasel like creatures called genets, lots of wide tailed mongoose (do you think the plural would be mongeese???) and perhaps a civet, a small member of the cat family. Two hippos were rather startled as the lights picked out their ponderous bodies as they fed.  They only leave the water at night because their skin is subject to sunburn and they need to keep cool.  The way you see the animals at night is that someone holds spot lights out of the two sides of the safari vehicle and flashes it around. Once they see the reflection of the eyes of an animal they yell at the driver to stop and then they back up until the animal can be spotted.  
We headed south to the edge of the park and drove the short distance to Swaziland.  Today we are going to go up to a traditional Swazi village, to have a tour, learn about their culture, get fed and sleep up there. Stay tuned….., and check back for pics, too tired tonight.
Two waterbucks locking horns
To cute not to share

Thursday, November 08, 2012

We are four days into our road trip in Africa.   We took off from Richards Bay with the aim of driving to see Victoria Falls.
A jacaranda tree in full bloom, the huts are modern African living quarters on Zulu land.
We are travelling with Brian and Dorothy from Tagish another Canadian cruising couple. The first day we headed north west up through South Africa, it was a gorgeous drive. At times there was mountainous vistas and we wound through a picturesque pass on a very good road. The only draw back was that we were told not to stop unless it was in a populated area because of the risk of car jacking, it was a bit off putting but it didn't deter us.  The second day we entered Botswana and drove north to Kasane which is at the apex of four countries, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The drive through Botswana was totally different.
Driving through Botswana
The land was flatter than a pancake, mostly along the road is scrub bush with acacia trees and the iconic flat top trees that you see on all the posters about Africa. It got progressively drier as we went north and the temp climbed up to 35 degrees, the heat was so dry I had to buy lotion to stave off the onset of alligator skin, the Kalahari dessert is just to the west of us. There was about  15 km of cleared land, we thought we were back in Sask; it was so flat, no trees and it had been plowed ready for this year's crop when the rainy season sets in.  We finished the drive in the dark which is pretty dangerous because there are no fences and wild game including elephants wander across the road. We adopted the strategy of letting a car pass and then sticking to him like glue, thank heavens were arrived safe and sound.
This is called Devil's Cataract at the far east end of the falls.
The next day we took a tour to see Victoria Falls in Zimbawe( We could not take our car in because the rental agency would not let us and it would have been way too expensive, they charges taxes for everything.) WOW, what can I say, the beauty and history of the area was stunning.  
The main falls being obscured by the mist that rises from the gorge
It is at the end of the dry season so we saw the falls at the lowest levels of water, but there was tons flowing over and I am sure the mist when it is high water must obscure your view. We imagined canoeing along the river and hearing the thunder of the falls and catching glimpses of the mist, then pulling the boat ashore to go and check out the sound and seeing the falls for the first time. I could have stared for hours at the changing panorama that was taking place as the water spilled over the edge and thundering about 100 meters to the gorge below.

Looking down  the gorge towards Rainbow Falls
 There were 12 viewpoints on a lovely  2 km walk along the escarpment. It was really hot but the mist would cool us off as it rose from the Zambezi River.Afterwards we went to the Victoria Falls Hotel which was built in colonial times and oozes elegance and sophistication. 
We visited the Stanley room and had lunch of the famous terrace which has a superb view of the bridge that crosses the Zambezi River from Zimbabwe to Zambia.
Barry in the Victoria Falls Hotel, the Stanley room in the background
There were linen napkins and the ladies wash room was the most elegant I have ever seen. Next we were taken to the curio market where Barry proceeded to make almost all the vendors happy, our Christmas shopping is now complete!!!

This morning we went on a 3 hour safari to the Chobe National Park.  There are no fences there and animals are allowed to roam free.  There is a wet land area within the park and at one point we spotted a hippo and then noticed there were a lot of safari vehicles on the other side of the water.  As we got closer we spotted the lions, they were feeding on either a water buffalo or a wildebeest. There was a pride of 8 with a matriarch and youngsters.Our guide told us that the males start developing their mane at about 2 and ½ years and then they leave the pride.  They were ripping their kill to bits, there legs muddy to up beyond the first joint because they were right beside the river.  Rambo (our guide) speculated the animal (otherwise known as lunch) was trying to escape the attacking lions by fleeing into the water.
Notice the crocodile swimming by in the foreground

Right beside the lions were a pod of hippos.  There were enormous, standing in water up to their eyebrows they would submerge at will. I was fascinated to see their gigantic mouths when they opened them.  We could hear them vocalizing and saw some play fights.  .They stayed in a close group while crocodiles cruised around the outside, apparently crocs are only dangerous to baby hippos and will not attack an adult.  In Africa they talk about the big five, being the rhino, the elephant, the water buffalo, the lion and the leopard, we have seen four  of the five and it is quite unlikely we will see a leopard.  At the moment we are heading south in the car, once we reach South Africa we will jog east to see some of Kruger National park and then head back to Richards Bay through Swaziland. I am so glad we took the plunge and headed to the falls, they were a once in a  lifetime experience.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


white rhino, notice the bird on top
Well, we had a fabulous trip yesterday, we went and visited a local game farm, about 1 and 1/2 from here. A local cruiser named Anne and her daughter Lauriken drove us out in their personal vehicle. What a treat, Anne grew up traipsing around Africa and has a real love and a great deal of knowledge about the animals and Lauriken was a walking encyclopedia of facts about the variety of wildlife, birds and the plants. We learned so much about what we were seeing and we saw way more than we would have if we had gone by ourselves. We just love our South African friends!!!
There are 3 giraffes and a water buffalo

Barry and I were just thrilled with the giraffes, they are such improbably animals, we would gaze at them trying to figure out how they could walk, apparently they are distant relatives of the zebra, watching them eat reminded me of a camel!

We saw some elephants, you have to be very careful of them, they have been known to put a tusk through a rental car, only in Africa, you say!  Our guy just flapped his ears at us and waved his trunk about, we thought he was going to go and push over a tree but no luck.  We saw lots of white rhinos, and Barry took a beautiful picture of one, the bird on him is called an oxpecker. They are massive animals and eat  up to 40 kg of grass a day, Brian from Tagish who came with us, suggested perhaps he could get one to trim his lawn once they get back to Canada but figured the neighbours might object. They are endangered due to poaching for their horns and at the moment they are being killed by poachers that arrive in helicopters, after paying off the park rangers, and cut off their horns and leave.  This is being done in game parks where they are protected, it is a sad state of affairs.
There are 3 baboons in this picture, 2 on the ground and  1 in the mirror.

A troop of baboons scampered across the road in front of us, they were moving pretty fast so we didn't  get a great picture.  
We got excited in the late morning when we saw vultures circling, perhaps there was a lion kill and we might get to see a BIG cat.  It is rare to see a lion or a leopard in this park. Our trusty guide, Anne, saw where the vultures went to land and headed that way.  There was no lion but there were 38 vultures on a sand spit, facing into the wind just sunning themselves and occasionally airing out their wings, watching them coming in for a landing, correcting as their long legs extended for landing was a real treat.  On a branch we spotted a tawny eagle making a meal of a mouse, he swallowed the tail whole and the proceeded to rip out the guts and consume them.  So we got to see our animal kill after all.  Downstream and around a corner from the vultures the croc was sunbathing, just waiting for some poor unwary creatures to come down for a sip. 
If you look closely you can see the mouses tail between the eagle's tail feathers. 
There were zebras as well as impalas, wildebeest, kudus and nyala, all four legged deer like creatures. The impalas apparently are very nervous creatures, they have been known to die of fright from hearing a gun shot.

Another sighting was the water buffalo, one of the meanest creatures in Africa, according to Anne. 

 There was one calmly chewing it's cud while lying in the sand and three of them went charging across the road right in front of us, they were dripping wet and were spooked, Anne figured that maybe a croc had tried to drag one down. 
I could go on and on, the experiences were so varied, the experience of a lifetime, we are in Africa, pinch me. 
It was very hilly in this park with a rive running through it. 

An Egyptian goose, notice the Egyptian type eyes

Warthogs, how could I forget those.
Tomorrow we head off to Victoria Falls for a week with Brian and Dorothy from Tagish, stay tuned.

This is a video of a dung beetle pushing a ball of elephant dung.  They burrow into the dung and make a perfect ball, then they roll it somewhere a bury it and later lay their eggs in it.  The guy doing the rolling is the male, as it should be, and the female plays the princess and goes along for the ride.  I am not sure about the wisdom of getting a ball of dung rolled on top of you instead of helping but I am just a human. I bet my grandchildren will love this. 

The quality of the video is not great, but the we just loved the giraffes so much we had to share.