Thursday/ making like an otter

Here’s a scanned 35mm photo negative, from my newest Google Photos album called ‘1990 Otter Hiking Trail’. (Yes, that’s me in 1990, striking an ‘otter’ pose for the camera. The water from the mountain stream is perfectly fine for drinking. The brown color comes from tannins leaching into the water from tree roots and decaying vegetation).

The Otter Hiking Trail is a five-day hiking trail along the Garden Route coast of South Africa and is named for the Cape clawless otter which occurs in this region.

Saturday/ South Africa’s diamonds and animals

My bundle of mail held by the post office arrived on Saturday.
One of them was a package of books & magazines I had shipped to myself from South Africa in October. The package was plastered with stamps of fabulous diamonds and ‘big five’ animals.

Famous diamonds from South Africa: The Star of South Africa (1869), The Eureka (1866), The Centenary (1986), The De Beers (1988) and the newest one of fame, the Blue Moon of Josephine (2014), a flawless 12-carat blue diamond, sold at auction in 2015 for a record $48.4 million.   The Big Five: African buffalo, Black Rhinoceros*, Leopard, Lion and African Elephant. *My usual disclaimer: the Big Five are for conservation and NOT FOR HUNTING. Only 5,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, a number that is double the 1995 number, though. The White Rhinoceros should really be a big fiver too, with some 20,000 still in the wild. Giraffes and hippos could certainly qualify, as well.

Tuesday/ tornado!

Big, destructive tornadoes are a rare sight in South Africa, but one touched down near the town of New Hanover in KwaZulu-Natal province on Tuesday at 4 pm local time.

No fatalities have been reported so far, but some 30 houses and an electrical substation were damaged.

Update Thu 11/14: Two fatalities have been reported, from homes in the Mpolweni settlement that were struck by the tornado. More people are still reported as missing.

Tornado spotted near New Hanover in KwaZulu-Natal. This is some 40 miles from the port city of Durban, as the crow flies. The outlines of the Mersey electrical substation is visible in the picture. I could not find a report of its strength, but it could have been F-1 (73-112 mph winds). [Picture Credit: The still frame is from a clip posted on Twitter @StormReportSA1]

Saturday/ the Springboks have it!

The South African rugby team made it #3 today with their upset win in the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final against England. They won in 1995 against New Zealand, and in 2007 against England.

There were two beautiful Springbok tries in the second half, one by left wing Makazole Mapimpi, and one by quicksilver right wing Cheslin Kolbe. The final score was 32-12.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi lifts the Rugby World Cup trophy, flanked by the littlest guys in the team: scrum-half Faf de Klerk, 5′ 8″, 194 lbs (left) and right wing Cheslin Kolbe, 5′ 7″, 176 lbs.
Cute cartoon in the Daily Mail. (Croydon is just 15 mi south of London, and the Final was played in Yokohama, Japan). Alas, the English fans had to return home very disappointed.

Sunday/ go Bokke!

The South African Springboks are through to the World Rugby Cup semi-final. They beat Japan’s Brave Blossoms 26-3.

Next up: Wales, on Sun Oct. 27 in Yokohama. The other semi-final is between England and New Zealand on Sat. Oct 26.

The Springboks are about to score another try here (try= touchdown), in the last 10 minutes of the game. Full back Willie le Roux is passing the ball to wing Makazole Mapimpi, and he went over and scored to bring the score to 26-3. No forward throwing or passing as in American football – that would be completely illegal in rugby! And no tackling, or holding someone back, if he does not have the ball. [Source: YouTube: HIGHLIGHTS: Japan v South Africa – Rugby World Cup 2019]

Monday/ back to Amsterdam

It’s Monday night, and I’m about to go to Cape Town airport to make my way back to Amsterdam. I plan to take the Inter City Express train from there, to make it into Hamburg by Tuesday night.

‘Everything you need to support the (Spring)bokke’ (the national rugby team competing in the 2019 Rugby World Cup), says this print advertisement. Tuesday is National Heritage Day in South Africa, also known as Braai Day (Barbecue Day) – hence the sausage and meats for the grill.  I should have postponed my journey back with a day or two!

Saturday/ book store treasure hunt

My friend and I went on a second-hand bookstore treasure hunt on Saturday.
I am looking for a few out-of-print Afrikaans books from my childhood.
It looks like I will have better luck scouring the offerings of  local online booksellers – but it is still fun to browse through the shelf inventory of second-hand booksellers!

Here’s the inside of Bikini Beach Books in Gordon’s Bay. It has an unusual, somewhat unorganized, selection of local and international books and publications.
Here’s a prize book that my friend had bought online for me. I just love the artwork on the cover, as well. ‘Fritz Deelman and the Space Ships from Mars‘ by Leon Rousseau. The protagonist is a James Bond of sorts, an international agent working for the South African Special Forces. The book was published in 1957, so even before man first set foot on the moon.

Friday/ sunbirds and sugarbirds

I caught several beautiful birds on camera while roaming the gardens during my visit at Kirstenbosch.
The most striking ones were sunbirds and sugarbirds.
Sunbirds (family Nectariniidae) are not hummingbirds ⁠(family Trochilidae) — even though both have sharp, curved bills and iridescent feathers.
Hummingbirds are native to the Americas and are related to swifts.
Sunbirds are native to Africa, Asia and Australia and are related to swallows.

An orange-breasted sunbird (Anthobaphes violacea) on a pin-cushion protea. These birds are found only in fynbos. They love flowers such as tube-shaped heaths, pin cushion proteas, pagodas and cape honeysuckle.
The male southern double-collared sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus) has a brilliant red band across its chest, and a narrower metallic blue band below its green neck and head.
This is a female Cape sugarbird (Promerops cafer). Males have really long tail feathers. Their diet consists mainly of nectar, but also of small insects.
A male Cape batis (Batis capensis) with its striking eye-mask, white throat and black chest pattern, taking a bath at a water fountain. These are small but stout insect-eating birds.
A Cape white-eye (Zosterops virens) in the cycad garden in Kirstenbosch. They eat insects, soft fleshy flowers, nectar, fruit and small grains.
A Cape bulbul (Pycnonotus capensis, Afr. ‘Kaapse tiptol’). They are active and noisy, and tend to perch at the top of a bush.

Thursday/ koeksister

A koeksister is a traditional Cape Malay confectionery made of fried dough infused in syrup or honey.

I no longer put sugar in my coffee .. but hey, nothing wrong to have a sweet koeksister with it when in South Africa. Koeksisters have a golden crunchy crust and liquid syrup centre, are very sticky and sweet, and taste like honey.

Wednesday/ here’s Kirstenbosch

It is spring in South Africa, and I just had to stop by Kirstenbosch: one of the world’s finest botanical gardens.

All kinds of Namaqualand daisies are in bloom in September and October in Kirstenbosch, on the southeastern slopes of Table Mountain.
These are Livingstone daisies (Cleretum bellidiforme), also called Bokbaaivygie (Afr.), a flowering plant in the family Aizoaceae, native to the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.
I love the soft pinks, whites and yellows of the tassel heath (Erica coccinea). It’s a type of fynbos native to Potberg north of Cape Town.
The bees and the birds do it .. and so do long-horned beetles!
Pincushion protea (genus: Leucospermum), one of some 48 such species with the flowers in variations of oranges, reds and yellows. The plants are evergreen upright or creeping shrubs.
Here’s a red-eyed fly on a common pagoda (Mimetes cucullatus). This is a type of fynbos found on the Cape Peninsula.
The king of all the proteas, the iconic and beautiful King Protea (Protea cynaroides). It has the largest flower head of all the proteas.
This could be a scene from 200 million years ago on the slopes of Table Mountain. Most of these plants are Eastern Cape Giant Cycads (Encephalartos altensteinii). The dinosaur is a model of Aardonyx celestae ‘Earth Claw’, fossils of which were discovered in 2005 in rock in South Africa. Aardonyx was 7 m (21 ft) long and 1.5 m (5 ft) tall at the hips.
Here is the Tree Canopy Walkway, new-ish addition to Kirstenbosch (May 2014) of a curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum.
Here is the Conservatory by the main entrance to the gardens, with Africa’s southern-most boabab tree specimen.
The Conservatory houses a large collection of Namibian desert plants. This one is a Kobas (Cyphostemma currorii).
The curators have also gone to great lengths to cultivate a number of the weird and wonderful Welwitschia mirabilis desert plant. The enclosures are heated, as is the soil, so as to mimic desert conditions. Some specimens in the Namib desert are estimated to be 1,000 to 1,500 years old.
Heath (genus Erica) type fynbos vegetation. Fynbos (‘fine bush’) is a small belt of natural shrubland or heathland vegetation located in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

Tuesday/ more feathered friends

Here are some more feathered friends, spotted from my apartment’s balcony in the trees nearby.

The rosy-faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis), is a species of lovebird native to arid regions in southwestern Africa such as the Namib Desert. They are very social and constant chirpers, and like to congregate in small groups in the wild. The coloration can vary widely among populations, but plumage is identical in males and females.
A little lovebird kerfuffle on the tree branch? ‘Hey! Watch it!’ the middle one seems to say, while the one on the right is looking on.
Here’s the Cape weaver (Ploceus capensis) working on its nest. The nest makes it hard for predators (especially snakes) to get to the eggs or the chicks. Their diet consists mostly of flowers, small fruits and seeds.
The ring-necked dove (Streptopelia capicola) is also known as the Cape turtle dove or half-collared dove. Here’s one with its feather coat all fluffed up to ward off the chilly morning air.
And it seems a little later, that it felt it was OK to go back to ‘ops normal’ with its feather coat.

Monday/ the National Library of South Africa

I spent a little time in the Cape Town branch of the National Library of South Africa today.
I was hunting down some of my favorite childhood books and magazines copies, but it turned out to be harder than I thought it would be.
I had all the information handy, gleaned from their online catalog. The public is not allowed in that section of the library, though – so the librarian had to retrieve the books for me.
Alas, the book I wanted most, could not be found immediately.  They will let me know if they have it.

The neoclassical main building of the National Library of South Africa in Cape Town on Government Ave. Its design by W.H. Kohler is based on the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge. As it happens, the building was opened on this day, Sept. 16, in 1860 .. 159 years ago to the day. [Picture: Wikipedia]
This is the hall inside the National Library’s main building on Government Ave.
Detail of a chandelier in one of the reading rooms, with a beautiful round skylight. (Just getting to the point where someone is going to have to replace those dead light bulbs, right?)
This is the Center for the Book Building at 62 Victoria Street. It was designed by British architects Hawke and McKinley in the Edwardian style, and completed in 1913.
Just around the corner is De Tuynhuys (Garden House), completed in 1790 in the Cape Dutch style. Tuynhuis the Cape Town office of the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa.

Sunday/ Stellenbosch

I was in Stellenbosch today and took a few pictures (of course).
Here is a little bit of the town’s Cape Dutch Period origins and history, from a 2015 post.

The bell was tolling at 5 o’clock while I was taking this picture of the Moederkerk building (‘Mother Church’), of the Dutch Reformed church. It has a Neo-Gothic Tower designed by Carl Otto Hager from Dresden in Germany. The building was completed in 1863.
This is 43 Victoria Street, housing the offices of Student Career Services, and an appropriate address for a Victorian-style building. I could not find the year in which it was built, though.
This building dates back to 1779 (inscribed below the triangular gable), when it was built by building contractor Philip Hartog as his own home. Currently it serves as the offices of the Mother Church nearby.
These steps are on JS Marais Square (Red Square’), leading down to the entrance to the subterranean library of the University of Stellenbosch.
The Old Main Building of the University of Stellenbosch was also designed by architect Carl Otto Hager. The building was completed in 1886.
The campus of the University of Stellenbosch has plenty of Strelitzia (‘Bird of Paradise’) flowers. These are native to South Africa.

Saturday night

We had a nice view of Table Mountain at sunset, from where we were sitting in a restaurant in Plattekloof.

The view at sunset tonight, looking southwest from the corner of Olienhout Ave and Plattekloof Rd. From left to right in the distance: Table Mountain (1 085 m/ 3,560 ft), Lion’s Head (669 m/ 2,150 ft) and Signal Hill (350 m/ 1,150 ft).

Friday/ look! a mousebird

Here is a mousebird that I spotted in a tree across from my  second-floor Airbnb apartment.

Per Wikipedia: Mousebirds are slender greyish or brown birds with soft, hairlike body feathers. They are arboreal (live in trees) and scurry through the leaves like rodents, in search of berries, fruit and buds. This habit, and their legs, gave rise to the group’s English name. They have strong claws and reversible outer toes (pamprodactyl feet). They also have crests and stubby bills.

The mousebirds are Coliiformes (their order). They could be considered ‘living fossils’, as the 6 species existing today are merely the survivors of a lineage that was massively more diverse in the early Paleogene period (up to 23 million yrs ago) and Miocene period (up to 5 million years ago).

The White-backed Mousebird (Colius colius). Check out its long tail-feathers. This species prefers scrubby dry habitats, such as thornveld, fynbos scrub and semi-desert.

Thursday/ here comes Rugby World Cup 2019

There Rugby World Cup 2019 starts in a week on Fri Sept. 20 in Japan. It starts out with four pools (A B C and D) with five teams in each. The top two teams in each will go through to the final rounds.

Ireland is at the top of the world rankings, South Africa is #4, and the United States (yes, there is a team, actually), is a definite underdog at #13.  South Africa will play New Zealand in its first match; the USA will play England.

Do I want some Rugby World Cup cards? asked the lady at the grocery store check-out today. Um -yes, sure, was my response. Confession: I barely know any of the South African rugby players .. looks like the guy in the middle here is Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira (36), though. Some years ago the Seattle Seahawks (American football) had a running back called Marshawn ‘Beast Mode’ Lynch.

Friday/ Cape Town’s dams: doing fine

As the rainy season draws to a close in Cape Town, South Africa, the six dams in the greater area around it are doing much, much better than they did in 2017 and 2018.
A big rainstorm this July boosted the levels of several dams by more than 5%.

49, 418 megalitres of water is enough for about 430,000 large swimming pools. [Infographic by Climate System Analysis Group at University of Cape Town].
‘Theewaterskloof puffs out its chest’: The Theewaterskloof Dam is the largest of the six in the Cape Town region. It was at only 13% in January 2018. All the parched spots in the picture from that time, are now covered by at least 3 feet of water.  [Source: Die Burger newspaper].

Wednesday/ ‘Christmas roses’ in July

My hydrangea’s flowers are starting to appear. In South Africa we call them krismisrose (‘Christmas roses’) in Afrikaans.

Hydrangea is a genus of 70–75 species of flowering plants native to Asia and the Americas. Most hydrangeas thrive in rich, porous, somewhat moist soils.

Sunday/ Happy Father’s Day!

I am fondly remembering my dad today.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

This picture is a still frame from a film reel sequence, shot with an 8mm film camera, circa 1960.  The location is the beach flats at Hermanus in the Western Cape, in South Africa. The magnificent driving machine is a 1959 Ford Fairlane (V8 engine). My dad had just used it for doing several ‘doughnuts’ on the beach.  The ‘TV’ on the licence plate stands for Transvaal (province), Vereeniging (town).