30 October 2007

O is for Ostriches and an old feather duster

The Ostrich is a familiar sight in the Eastern Cape, either in the wild or as domesticated birds. They are also important players in the economy of the region, either in eco-tourism or for commercial purposes.

Female Ostriches at Holmeleigh Farm outside Port Elizabeth. Feed them, but don't pet them

This area was once the centre for the supply of Ostrich feathers to the fashion houses of London. Paris and New York.

Feathers plucked from wild birds were first exported in 1826. Commercial farming with domesticated birds started in about 1867 and the great feather boom started around 1870. At its height, there were more than 750,000 domesticated ostriches in the Little Karoo and about 450,000 kilograms of Ostrich feathers were exported a year.

A male Ostrich will reach a height of about 2,4 meters and weigh up to135 kilograms.
This one was photographed at the Addo Elephant National Park

There was a big boom in Ostrich farming in the Oudtshoorn area at that time and many farmers became extremely wealthy as a result. Many of the old "Ostrich Palaces" can still be seen and visited in that area. The main market for the sale of the feathers was in Port Elizabeth.
Composite pictute of the Feather Market Centre taken from Govan Mbeki Avenue

Situated in down-town Port Elizabeth is the Feather Market Hall, which owes its existence to Ostrich feathers. Its history goes back to the 1870's, when the City Council decided to build a trade centre for the booming ostrich feather industry. The Feather Market Hall was completed in January 1885 and the first auctions started soon after.

The roof of the main hall of the Feather Market Centre, facing Castle Hill

Fashion changed with the advent of World War I and was never the same again. The leading fashion houses changed their designs, to fit the austerity of war effort and the demand for Ostrich feathers declined to almost nothing. Many of the people who supplied the feathers lost their fortunes and the fancy mansions they had built. Oh the fickleness of fashion.

Entrance to the main hall from Castle Hill

Today the Feather Market Hall is one of the premier venues in the City and is used for conventions, conferences, trade shows and concerts
A pipe organ installed some years back for recitals. As a total peasant I avoid these recitals like the plague.

The Ostrich industry still thrives today, but with a different focus. Ostrich meat has become very popular, because it is a red and is very low in cholesterol and calories and is almost fat free. Leather from ostrich skins is the strongest commercial leather available and very fashionable. Ostich biltong (jerky) is popular and there is a growing demand for their eggs.

And there is still a market for the feathers in fashion and decor worlds and of course lets not forget the humble feather duster that still consumes its fair share of feathers.
Oh, and if anyone out there still thinks that Ostriches stick their heads in the sand.............they don't
Acknowledgements and thanks to Suzi-k for the pictures of the Feather Market Hall

29 October 2007


I took these pictures of a Black Backed Jackal at the Wolf Sanctuary near Knysna this weekend. These pictures can be considered a follow up to my Wednesday ABC post on Jackals, as I only had pictures of their pelts then. They may be regarded as vermin but I like them - they have character.

Enjoying the sunshine.

Getting comfortable

Strolling through the grass

Watch this spot for the wolves, because that what the sanctuary is all about.

28 October 2007

Edens' Touch

Morning walk at Eden's Touch near Harkerville shows some of the beauty of the Southern Cape. Known as the Garden Route there is always a show of colour, depending on the time of the year.

The path leading down to the forest through the heather and other indigenous plants.

The entrance to the forest. These forests were once plundered for their timber, mainly Yellow Wood and Stinkwood. There are now very strict controls over the harvesting of timber

Mountain stream. The water has a brownish colour from the vegetable matter.

View across the valley, with some exotic pine trees in the foreground

Farewells and celebrations

Well it has been a weekend of mixed emotions first saying goodbye to my son and daughter-in-law, as he returns to pursue his career as an airline pilot in North Africa and then driving down the garden route to celebrate great grandpa's 80th birthday in the Knysna forest.

The farewells also meant saying goodbye to little Amelia, who arrived on 13 September and who we are just getting to know. Ok, I am totally besotted and know when I see her again I will be a push-over, but that is what being a grandpa is all about.

The family smiling broadly at the dinner table waiting for the camera's self-timer to go off. It turned out to be a memorable evening filled with lots of fun and laughter.

27 October 2007

Have you ever Googled yourself

David's weekend wandering....

Guilty as charged.......but then I already knew what I would find.

Or did I? Didn't know there were so many people in the world with my name - over a million. Number one being a murderer awaiting extradition from Canada to the USA .

Me...........second from the top, which explains how a long lost cousin, who I had not seen for over 30 years found me by Googing my name.

Think I'll leave there and also keep my surname out of this, as there could be a case of mistaken identity.

24 October 2007

The sporting madness continues

For those of you who are soccer lovers and are keenly awaiting the 2010 Soccer World Cup, here is a shot of the new stadium being built near the North End Lake in Port Elizabeth.
I am not a soccer fan, but this view is a short walk from my home in Richmond Hill and it is interesting to watch the progress.

On the flip side, the mind boggles at the billions being spent on stadiums throughout the country - for a few games and then what? It is amazing how much enthusiasm and energy sport generates - but imagine for one moment, what would happen if all this money, effort and energy were to be chanelled into things that would make the world a better place for all?

N for Nieuwoudtville in Namaqualand

Nieuwoudtville is situated in the heart of Namaqualand in the Northern Cape and is famous for the beautiful show of flowers in spring each year. Most of the year the the countryside is dry and arid, then as if by some miracle after the spring rains the countryside comes to life. Two years ago Sue and I took a trip, we had been promising ourselves for many years to see the flowers.

Nieuwoudtville seen from the main road from Calvinia, with a field of flowers in the foreground.

The Church has been the centre of the life in most traditionally Afrikaans towns. This is the Dutch Reformed Church building in Nieuwoudtville

The hotel in Nieuwoudtville. Note the gravel streets.

If you travel to the north of Nieuwoudtville you can get onto Circular Drive, which runs through an arid plain, then through a rugged range of hills and eventually brings you back to town on the Calvinia Road.

These deserted buildings at the beginning bear testimony to the harsh conditions of the area.

This is reputed to be the most Southerly grove of Kokerbooms in South Africa

Farmer's are very protective of their property. Don't know how this one gets away with a sign like this on a public road. So shoot me........

Show of flowers at the end of Circular drive

The farm Maatjiesforntein is just to the South of Nieuwoudtville. It is said to have the highest concentration of bulbs per square metre in the world. In spring the flowers bloom after the first rains and the country side becomes a profusion of colour. For a nominal entry fee you can go onto the farm and enjoy the profusion of flowers.

Flowers, flowers, flowers...............................

An old barn on the farm has been turned into a restaurant..............
.........and is filled with old family memorabilia

Between Nieuwoudtville and Maatjiesfontein is the glacial pavement, evidence of the ice age

The scratch marks from the glacier are still visible

23 October 2007

Chilled out Cheetah

This Cheetah was photographed at the Kragga Kamma Game Park, just outside Port Elizabeth this weekend.

I tried very hard to get it to look at me, but eventually concluded that it is like its domestic relatives. It certainly displayed all the normal, perverse characteristics of a cat. Life on my terms - I will look at you when I am good and ready - but that won't be today.

22 October 2007

Three trees

Blue Gum (Eucalyptus) trees taken at the Kragga Kamma Game Park

Shark Rock Pier

The breaking waves give the sea a misty look with an eight second time exposure

20 October 2007

Well done Springboks

Congratulations to the Springboks on winning the Rugby World Cup.

It was a tough and a tense game, with both sides giving it everything they had. At times I thought it could go either way, but South Africa prevailed, which was a good thing because our nation would have gone into a serious decline if they had lost. This was just the remedy needed to cure the fever that has been sweeping through the country for the past two months.

Final score - South Africa 15/ England 6

Next stop New Zealand 2011.

Rugby fever reaches epidemic proportions

A few hours are left to the start of the Rugby World Cup final and "Rugby Fever" has reached epidemic proportions in South Africa. It is manifesting itself in many strange ways.

I had to run some errands this morning and the spirit was quite amazing. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me, so was not able to take advantage of the many photographic opportunities, but my cell phone did prove useful.

This guy is really making a statement

Cars and motor bikes were flying flags; cars were emblazoned with the words "Go Bokke"; most people were dressed in green and gold; the shops were flying South African and Springbok flags; I was told that all the Rugby World Cup clothing was sold out throughout the city, Wherever I went there was an air of excitement and a tremendous vibe.

My son has a severe attack of Rugby Fever

It was a fun morning watching normally sane and rational people doing things they would not usually do - all in the spirit of generating support and excitement.

There can be no doubt that the nation is behind the Springbok Rugby Team.

Here's to a good game...........................


Day lily

Looking in on one from our garden

Was I a teenage rebel?

The answer to David McMahon's weekend question, "was I a teenage rebel", depends on how one defines the word rebel.

When compared with most common or garden teenagers of my time I was probably quite tame, especially on the home front.

Growing up wild and free shaped me
into a non-conformist teenager

At school I was too much of a nonconformist to be part of the "in crowd". I was motivated and driven by different interests and values to most of my peers. I scorned designer labels and still do; I could not care less about disco's, or any of the other fads of the time that qualified one for acceptance by this crowd. My idea of fun was getting out and doing my own thing, like going fishing or exploring the countryside around our home. That was part of the legacy of growing up in the bush. As a result I was always on the outside looking in - the price of nonconformity, in an image conscious world. So if not aspiring to the shallow norms of my peer group set me apart, then I guess in that respect I was a teenage rebel.

My desire to be left alone was of course never honoured by that select group of individuals, who qualified for the ignominious title of "school bully". These thugs would prowl around the school yard or the classrooms deliberately picking fights.

It would usually start something like this. You are standing around at break talking to friends, minding your own business, when the dreaded words ring out, "What are you looking at?"

You look around to see who he is talking to, because it can't possibly be you. You did not even see him arrive.

"Hey you!". You turn around and make eye contact with this mean looking individual, whose sole mission in life now is to beat you to a pulp. But of course, to salve his conscience he must first create the justification. Your blood runs cold.

"Who me," comes the lame reply.

"Yes you, what are you looking at?", is said with menace.

Here comes the part where you have to carefully select your answer, which does not really matter, because whatever you say is going to be wrong. Oh, and don't bother to look around for a teacher, because he has already made certain there are none around to witnes his nefarious deed.

"I ....wwwwasn't llllooking at y..ou", you stammer. By now your heart is pounding like a jack hammer.

"Are you tuning me grief!" That terminology spells big trouble. Now you know you are on a downward spiral.

You look around for moral support but your friends have deserted you....it is like they were vaporized.......... it's all downhill from here...........

The other scenario, just after the, "Yes you, what are you looking at?", part is to start grovelling. Even if you did nothing wrong it is best to apologize - preferably in the most snivelling way possible. In this way you might just get away with your arm being wrenched from it socket and a warning. "Phew", you think, "what a lucky break".

From here on you make sure you look out for this fellow and pay him the homage that is his "due". In this way they would gain quite a following around them, not through the choice of the individuals, but through fear.

Then there is the Max response. It comes immediatedly after the, "What are you looking at?" part.

I do not kow tow to bullies, so without giving a though to the consequenses or persaonal safety, my immediate retort would be, "Your ugly face".

That usually sparked a reaction. If they were really big I would run, I was quite nimble on my feet, just enough to kep out of their reach. Alternativey I would stand my ground. Usually they would back off and afterwards my friends would rematerialize and congratulate me on taking a stand.

Sorry mate, but I was cast in a different mould. I never have and I never will give in to threats of violence and intimidation from bullies. So in that respect I was a teenage rebel.

19 October 2007

How ordinary is this - remarkably so?

I felt really "mean" photographing this sign earlier this afternoon, but could not resist the impulse.
It amused when I first spotted it in the window of a suburban nail bar (salon) about five years ago.....and it still does.

The place must be a veritable gold mine, because it is always full of customers having their nails done. I wonder if it's because of the logo or in spite of the logo?

Rugby Fever - Go Bokke

Rugby World Cup fever is running rampant throughout the land . Tomorrow night South Africa will come to a standstill, when the Lions and the Springboks vie for the world cup. With two highly motivated and determined teams it promises to be an exciting match.

After the last encounter South Africa will want to make sure it stays on top and England of course, will not want a repeat of a 36/0 hiding.

I wanted to post a picture of a lion for the English team, but the closest I could come to one in my archives was a ginger cat................. at first I thought maybe not, as it might upset the English fans..... but then I thought why not, it is appropriate after their last performance....... on the other hand what if they stage a come back, where does that leave me - humiliated.............what the heck, here goes..... I can take it

Pussy cat, pussy cat I love you.........

...........................GO BOKKE!

What is it about 30 men chasing a little oval shaped ball around a field that gets nations so excited?

Airshow - errata

Oops... seems like I got the date of the airshow wrong. Will just have to wait and see.

Up close and personal with the Hawker Sea Fury (ZU-WOW). Built after WWII, it has the distinction of being the fastest piston driven production aircraft ever built.

18 October 2007

Go Bokke

For the unenlightened South Africa and England have made it to the finals of the Rugby World Cup and we can expect a great battle on Saturday, 20 October 2007.

National pride is again at stake and after the 30-0 defeat at the last encounter, England will be sure to fight back with great vigour. As one commentator said, the English only stop fighting when they are dead - the Lions are alive and well and set to redeem themselves.

But the Bokke are firing on all cylinders and more than willing and able to show the Lions what they are made of.........again.

Time to nail my colours to the mast.................Go Bokke!

17 October 2007

Somewhere over the rainbow

There was a perfect rainbow on my way home from work this evening. Sometimes we can't capture the full impact with a camera.

M for Mirages and a mouse

The Black Widow
What is it about jets that cause them to attract so much attention? Is it the raw power, or the speed, or the look…..? Whatever it is they have me hooked.

These pictures were taken at the Port Elizabeth Air Show in October last year.

The Black Widow as she is called, is the only flying Mirage III CZ in the world. In other words, she is the last of the South African Mirage CIII’s still flying.

The Mirage IIIC, a single-seat interceptor, first flew in October 1960 and was used in French Air Force until 1988. It was exported to South Africa and designated the Mirage IIICZ. These jets are used in many air forces around the world and they contributed to the success of the Israelis in the “Six-Day War" of 1967 (for those of us who can remember that far back).

Some of the specs for those who are interested are - speed: Mach 2.2; ceiling: 59,055 ft; range: 900 nm; fuel consumption: I don’t know – just glad that I don’t have to fill her tanks
Click on the picture for a really good view of her lines

I went to boarding school in a village called Settlers, on the Springbok Flats about 100 kilometres north of Pretoria in the Limpopo Province. It was there, in the early 1960’s that I first saw the Mirage.

Settlers was on the flight path to the air force base at Pietersburg, so they often flew past. Sometimes one would stop by and give us an aerobatic display. Occasionally we would hear the sonic boom as one broke the sound barrier.

If a Mirage flew past when we having lessons, the boys would all leap up and run to the windows to catch a glimpse of it – for some reason the teachers (even the old dragons) we quite tolerant of these disruptions to the lessons.

Over forty years later I still run out if a jet flies past – some things will never change.

The Black Widow is maintained by the South African Air Force Museum and long may she fly.

And a mouse.......................
Who can resist a mouse, especially a little striped field mouse. This one was photographed at the Addo Elephant National Park hoping for a hand out.

In case you are wondering what the relationship is of the field mouse to the Mirage, it is simple - neither hang around long enough for you to compose your picture. Locate........point,,,,,,,, shoot..... and hope for the best.