29 July 2007

Impala fawn

The rugged beauty of the bush at a safari lodge near Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape.

The area is full of game but coming across this little guy one morning was a real treat. An Impala fawn left at the side of the road by his mother, while she went off to graze. Mommy said stay, so he was not going anywhere. That is part of their survival technique. When they get older a few does will be left in charge of a group of youngsters while the rest of the troop goes out to graze.

Reunited with mommy later on in the morning

28 July 2007

Heroes and those long forgotten

On one of our early morning neighbourhood strolls my wife and I ended up at the historical Russell Road Cemetery as the sun was rising.

In our 29 years in Port Elizabeth I have never visited the cemetery, which is unusual for me, because I have a morbid curiosity with cemeteries, especially the older ones. This one dates back to the mid to late 1800’s, when Russell Road was still known as Hyman’s Kloof. There was no road then, it was just a gorge with a stream running through it.

One can glean a lot about the history of a place by reading the tombstones.

The rich and the poor lie side by side in their graves. Some graves are monuments to the life of one person, but what I found intriguing was, that whole families were often buried in the same grave. This was a particularly sad place because of the high mortality rate, especially among the women and children.

When you read about the unsanitary conditions in the town at the time one can understand why.

One tombstone that I found very poignant was that of the Brunkhard family – Ralph aged 23 years and 4 months died on October 4 th 1889; Thomas aged 3 years and 4 months; George aged 2 years; Annie aged 9 months and 7 days; Margaret Ward aged 7 years and 4 months and their mother Margaret Ward aged 51 died on July 29th 1892. A lot of tears for one family.

Many people of Irish descent are also buried there, originating from places like Tipperary and County Cork. One section of the city around Evatt, Alice and Strand Streets was known as Irish Town. I can only wonder if some of these people came from that infamous area.

Here follows a few quotes on Irish Town from the book Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days, JJ Redgrave, The Rustica Press, Wynberg Cape 1947:

“It was a paradise for depraved seamen and drunken Hottentots of both sexes,
and was known as Irish Town. Interspersed between these drinking dens were a few low shops where big profits were made from smuggling liquor”.

At that time the police were only on duty from 8 am to 6 pm and,

There were no night duties and the town was left to make its own arrangements to prevent burglaries, assaults, drunken brawls and other crimes that occurred under
cover of darkness, and Irish Town, the hotbed of vice, was given a wide
berth by respectable people, including the constables”.

Today the police fortunately patrol at all times of the day and night.

“The buildings in Strand Street were the veriest rookeries, reeking of filth and
swarming with rats”.
They are still there - came across a dead rat in Strand Street just the other day.

When you read the history books, it was like the Wild West.

The wheel has turned - today Irish Town no longer exists. The same crimes are still very prevalent today, but the characters have changed. We are now faced with the scourge of Nigerian criminals who are into drugs, prostitution and any other crime that brings in a quick buck. (I will save that subject for another day though)

Amongst all the decay of the cemetery one can’t help but notice a well tended grave at the far end of the cemetery. James Langley Dalton a survivor of the Battle of Rorkes Drift and the recipient of the Victoria Cross. Dalton was an Acting Assistant Commissary with the Commissariat and Transport Department.

The action at Rorke's Drift, took place from 22 to 23 January 1879, when 139 British soldiers defended a supply station against about 4,500 Zulu warriors. About 500 Zulus died in the battle and 17 of the defenders were killed. What was remarkable about Rorkes Drift was that 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded – the highest number ever awarded in any battle. Dalton’s character was featured in the 1964 film Zulu, which was about the battle of Rorkes Drift

War buffs can read more about James Dalton and the battle of Rorkes Drift at
rorkesdriftvc.com and britishbattles.com

Grave yards are fascinating places, you never know what will emerge, like this vagrant who has made his home behind one of the crypts.

27 July 2007

The Cold Front Cometh

A cold front moving in on Port Elizabeth. I just love this weather - the icy cold winds the magnificent bank of clouds and the beach all to myself.

Don't be fooled by the calm looking sea. The swells are expected to get between 5 and 6 metre. No one will be fishing from Brighton Pier tonight. See The Moods of Algoa Bay.
The waves are already lapping the pier.

The fishing area off the sea wall with Port Elizabeth harbour in the background. The warning sign testifies to the fact that more that one careless fisherman has probably zappped himself on the overhead lines, on his way to catch the "big one".

Just down the tracks a homeless family have made the their home under the buffer stop (bumper) at the end of the railway tracks. At times like this we can really count our blessings.

23 July 2007


My blog buddy Ferguson. Either sleeps alongside me or demands attention. His prefered place is either on my lap or the key pad.

The Flamingos Are Back

Great news. The flamingos have returned sooner than expected. Must be the unseasonably warm dinner. A colleague told me today that she had seen hundreds on Sunday. So I left work earlier today and yes their numbers have increased since Saturday. Most of them were too far away to get a clear photo.

22 July 2007

One Very Sick Puppy

I came across the blog of “Zimbabwe Image” by chance this evening. What a negative image he is portraying of Zimbabwe and of their rulers. I am all for freedom of speech and letting rip from time to time, but statements like the one below, are disturbing and don’t do much for the image of Africa, which has had more than its fair share of violence, intolerance and bloodshed. I quote:
"We will cut off feet that kick us. We will clog with granite
mouths that speak against us. We will kill those who seek to exploit us. We will
behead heads that plan to monopolise our land. We will not forgive our enemies,
neither will we wish them life. The era of an Afrikan Mandela is DEAD. We will
not be peaceful, we will fight, fight the neocolonialist, its habinger, its
uncle tom, and its schemer."
This is one very sick puppy. His disease is an unusual form of rabies that is evident in the ranks of the ZANU PF leadership. It is characterized by frothing of the mouth, irrational policies, racial hatred, venting of the spleen and violent behavior.

Jokes aside, it is attitudes like these that have lead to intolerance and genocide elsewhere in Africa and the world.

Fortunately the era of Mandela is not over. This great man has just celebrated his 89th birthday and is still an inspiration and force for good. It is our hope that his legacy will remain with us and become the model for a long time.

The Moods of Algoa Bay

View of Algoa Bay taken from Richmond Hill.

Brighton Pier, on 21 July 2007 showing the bay in one of her calmer moods. Two of the fishermen were friends of the guy I spoke to while taking the picture. See "So What Was That About"
Stormy seas taken in March 2007 showing the wrath of Algoa Bay.


I stopped at Brighton Beach today to photograph the pier in calm weather. My last pictures were taken during stormy weather in March and I wanted to show the contrast in the moods of Algoa Bay. She is sometimes calm and gentle but can turn into a vicious bitch with seemingly little provocation.

This is not a place where I feel safe, especially when I am alone, as someone was murdered here not too long ago by a group of young thugs. Of course I did draw comfort from the fact that I was accompanied by Harry.
While I was snapping away, constantly looking over my shoulder, a voice came from a car parked near to mine.
“Excuse me”

“Yes,” I replied as I turned around almost suffering from whiplash in the process. “Can I help you?” I said to the grizzled fifty something year old fellow, with very few teeth in his mouth and a disreputable looking beanie on his head who was approaching.

I took comfort in the fact that he did not look like the sort who was intent on doing grievous bodily harm. But then what do those types look like?

He proceeded to quiz me about my photography.

My initial thought was that he was going to ask me to take his picture and then somehow get the print to him, so I switched to monosyllabic mode. It’s what men do when they want to stifle discussion.

When I realized this was not the case, I became more amiable and explained that I photographing the pier to contrast it with the pic’s I had taken during the storm, when the waves were breaking over it. I then said I had just been photographing the flamingos.

Up to this point he seemed somewhat tense.

“So you just photograph nature?” he asked.

“Yes”, I replied and he visibly relaxed.

“Two of those guys fishing from the pier are my friends,” he said.

“That’s nice,” I replied trying not to sound too patronizing.

“They are just fishing”, he continued.

I looked in their direction and nodded my head “wisely”, as if he had imparted some profound knowledge. “Mmmmmmmm,” I thought, “I wonder what they are really doing?”

“So you just photograph nature?” he asked again.

“That is right” I replied, not bothering to enlighten him on all the subjects I photograph, such as perlemoen (abalone) poachers, anti social behaviour and anything else that takes my fancy.

Satisfied that I only photographed nature, he then proceeded to tell me that he worked on a farm near Seaview and somehow he brought the subject around to a development that had been stopped in the area, because of the effect it would have on the environment.

“That’s good,” I said. I then expressed my satisfaction with the fact that developers could no longer destroy the environment as they pleased and were required to first do an environmental impact assessment before any work could start.

That seemed to sour his mood.

He looked at me and said, “I am racist.”

I looked at him quizzically. “Yes,” he said, “I am racist, but that van Schalkwyk”, obviously referring to Marthinus van Schalwyk, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, “is worse….”

“Oh goody,” I thought this is going to get interesting.

With that he shook his head, pursed his lips and turned about and walked back to his car. As he climbed in he looked at me, waved and bade me a cheery farewell.

“What was that all about,” I thought.

21 July 2007

Flamingos and Salt Pans

The Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is the most widespread species of the flamingo family. According to Roberts Birds of South Africa they are spread over southern Europe, Asia and the greater part of Africa and America.

This summer I was concerned by the lack of flamingos at the Swartkops salt pans and was delighted to spot some a few weeks ago. I wanted to stop and photograph them, but every time I drove past I was in a hurry to get to Uitenhage and was unable to do so, or the light was not right.

Today I drove out to the salt pans and found this group. Even though there were not vast numbers of them and they were far away it was still a thrill to be able to watch them and photograph them.

My concern was that their scarcity was another symptom of man’s encroachment on their habitat. The centre picture shows how the suburb of New Brighton has been developed right up to the edge of the salt pans. According to a former colleague there were wetlands, where the N2 and the Settlers Freeway intersect about 50 years ago, which abounded with flamingos. Today those wetlands no longer exist.

Roberts also says flamingo numbers are also subject to annual fluctuations, which may explain why they have been so scarce this summer. I am hoping that they will return in larger numbers in the coming summer.

17 July 2007

Packing Cows

How to fit 3 cows in a VW Golf - only in South Africa?

15 July 2007

Reflections of History

The gable of a historical building reflected in the window of a modern one, in North End, Port Elizabeth. This was once a thriving community but is now a commercial and light industrial area.

This church on the corner of Robert and Brassel Streets, once at the centre of community life is now used as business premises, bears mute testimony to the people who have long since left - a solitary reminder of the past among all the modern buildings.

One of the few remaining residences now turned into rather unsavory looking business premises - this has the potential to be knocked down to make way for a new structure , or lovingly restored to recapture some of the old world charm of our city.

12 July 2007

Uncle Bob's Legacy

Mugabe does it again. Price control.

While making retailers drop the prices of their food products by 50% may seem a very noble thing to do, it is another example of gross economic mismanagement in Zimbabwe. It may score points with the electorate, but how will it impact the economy. No right minded retailer is going to restock the shelves of his shop, with products that cost more than he is allowed to sell them for.

The latest attitude of the Zimbabwean government is truly amazing - if business does not like the new policies they can get out and the government will run their shops. The mind boggles.

One can only hope that this does not lead to long term food shortages and starvation, for the ordinary citizens who are already in survival mode.

In a country where inflation is so high that the price of a drink increases even before you have finished a game of golf, a better thought out recovery programme is needed – one that does not involve Mugabe.

08 July 2007

Conserve our Sea-life

We always look forward to June as it is the start of the whale watching season, along the Eastern Cape coast, which runs through to September.
This year has started out very well. A recent newspaper report said that about 20 humpback whales were passing Cape Receife every day on their way to their breeding grounds.

Sue and I took a jaunt down Marine Drive and weren’t disappointed. The whales were everywhere. And even though they were far out it did not stop us from photographing them. We have lived here since 1978 and it is wonderful to see the increase in the whale population. This is a testimony to the efforts of the conservationists, who have done so much to stop the wholesale slaughter of these great animals

But, being a person with a short concentration span (sometimes) something else caught my eye. Rubber ducks and divers! So I started clicking away.

I would like to think that they were recreational divers, but something about their modus operadii said they were not. Perlemoen (abalone) poachers - the scourge of our coastline!

This suspicion was confirmed when a family of whale watchers parked in front of us drove off.

I looked up to see a rather tough looking character, dressed in a wet suit watching me. In fact he never took his eyes off me. At the same time another fellow was diligently carrying oxygen tanks up from the beach to his car. All this time the two rubber ducks were circling around the many divers in the rock pools off shore.

When a third diver arrived I suggested that it was time to leave. These are not the most amenable people and are prone to resort to violence at a whim.
Just do a Google search for “perlemoen poachers” and see what I mean.

What a contrast. The whales on the one hand the product of international conservation efforts and poachers on the other, a group of unscrupulous people intent on the ruthless
plundering the coast and creating another ecological problem.

Scratching Post

Well here goes.
I have been wanting to do this for a while now and have now taken the plunge into cyber space.
My intention is to comment and have my say on whatever grabs my attention.
If I put a smile on someones face or ruffle any feathers so be it.

This article, about a farmer who was mauled while hunting a leopard with a pack of dogs, in the Baviaanskloof area, caught my eye recently. Why is the response always to kill the predators? Let's rather preserve our wildlife heritage.