29 May 2008

Sky watch Friday - painting the sky

For today's sky watch I chose this view, looking up through the tops of these silver birches at what looks like a brush stroke of white paint in the sky. The picture was taken at Granny Mouse House, Hogsback.
For more sky watch pictures visit our genial host Tom, at Wiggers World.

27 May 2008

Super Women - Wednesday ABC

A tribute to the women of Africa

In today's Wednesday ABC I pay tribute to the women of rural Africa.

To all those women who eke out a subsistence living in harsh environmment. They till the fields; very often do the laundry in a stream; and they collect the wood for cooking.

Many walk miles to draw water and so often they prepare their family meals on an open fire.

Many are the glue who hold the family together and who despite all the hardships still maintain a cheerful countenance and show a pride in their children.


For more on Wednesday's ABC go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place

Tuesdays Trees #7 - Lucy in the sky with diamonds

The sun glinting through the leaves of a grand old oak tree at Hogsback.

24 May 2008

A sad old lady

The shell of an old Ford Mercury Eight, photographed at Malealea, Lesotho. A far cry from her glory days, which were in about 1946.

22 May 2008

Sky watch Friday - Sunrise at Malealea

I love sunrises, but when in Lesotho, it was a big battle to decide on whether to get up or not and brave the cold...freezing mountain air. It was a toss up between staying in a warm bed and waiting for the sun to rise, or getting up and getting frost bite (well almost) and watching it rise. In this case the temptation to get up won, and here is the result. You can also see the moon at the top of the picture.

21 May 2008

Reflections and red sky - Wednesday ABC

This picture comes from one of my favourite sunset series, when the family went on a fishing excursion to the Maitland River mouth and were treated to a magnificent sunset. Maitland also has one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. It is wide and stretches foe miles down the coast.
By the way, no one caught any fish, but it was still a fun evening - until I discovered I had locked my keys in my car.

20 May 2008

Tuesdays Trees #6 - Silver Birches

These Silver Birches can be seen at the Granny Mouse House garden at Hogsback. If you are fortunate enough to be able to visit Hogsback, even if you don't stay at the Granny Mouse House, you can visit the garden for a nominal fee - it is well worth it.

18 May 2008

Matters of the heart - getting fit

One thing about me and Suzi-k is that when it comes to being impulsive, we are probably at the front of the queue. After scorning all forms of exercise all our lives we have suddenly got on to the get fit kick - well my heart attack and by-pass probably had something to do with it.

Now six months since my operation, I have maintained my version of a heart friendly diet, which is somewhat radical, but have not been that succesful with my exercising. Though I did climb a mountain and have some good walks in Lesotho, without any negative effects.
On Saturday morning we decided we needed an exercise bike or an eliptical trainer. I was sold on the idea of getting an eliptical trainer that gets some good publicity on the infomercials. That idea was scrapped after I found a site on the net that reviews exercise equipment and which gave it a poor rating.

What I did discover was that there were cheapies advertised at various sites on the net, but the those advocated by the "experts" cost an arm and a leg. The idea was becoming less attractive, the more research I did. Who can exercise on one of these, if you are missing an arm and a leg.

I carefully planned the route, so we could visit all the shops selling exercise equipment. Our first stop was the exercise equipment shop I had dismissed a few weeks back, when driving past. "Who buys that stuff", I had scornfully said. We ended up with this "baby".

The salesman was very knowledgable, convincing and enthusiastic about the equipment. The eliptical trainer was about four times the price I wanted to pay and too big for our home. The exercise bike was nice, but cost a lot more than I wanted to spend. I was ready to walk out and continue the search, but the salesman gave us a price we could have refused, but didn't. It was a good price - expensive, but good.

A programmable magnetic cycle. I was almost intimidated by it - you need a pliots licence to drive it, or should I say pedal it.

It has 12 different programmes; you can increase the resistance as you pedal and burn up more energy; it takes your pulse, so that you do not over-exert yourself. It two of the programmes where you set your age and get a good cardio-vascular workout - it also reduces the resistance as soon as your pulse rate gets too high. It measures the calories burnt while cycling; it tells you your speed or rpm; and it has a clock, a timer and an alarm.
With what I have spent on this baby, I intend getting my money's worth, so will use it regularly. I must say I have been enjoying it and feel that I have exercised well after having been on it for 15 minutes.

It has some big advanatges over a normal bicycle. You don't have to worry about the rain, or being knocked over by a car, or being chased by a dog, or having some mugger part you from its saddle. And we have positioned it so that if we get bored, we can watch TV - that is if we choose to cycle when there is a good show on.

I intend to be well on the way to a new level of fitness at the end of a month.

And Tom, no cycling shorts and other fancy attire is needed.

15 May 2008

Sky watch - country scene

This scene was taken near Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, just before sunset

14 May 2008

Queen Victoria

I seem to have a thing about Queen Victoria, whose statues seem to grace many a city around the world. In fact my last Q post was also on her.

On our recent trip to Lesotho, our guide Jerry, who had just taken us up Mt Moorosi and on a long trek to see bushman art, pointed to this mountain with a smile and informed us it was Queen Victoria sitting on her throne. If you look carefully, you will see some huts on the side of the hill in the foreground.

I immediately saw a resemblance. Do you?

13 May 2008

Tuesday's Trees # 5 - California Redwood

In case you are mondering I have not been to California. These Redwoods were photographed at the Arboretum at Hogsback.

Whenever we go to Hogsback our first stop has to be the Arboretum, just to be able to stand under the Redwoods and soak in the atmosphere. I find the shear size of these trees amazing.

As you look up the branches seem to reach right up to the sky. They were planted over a hundred years ago.

10 May 2008

Art gallery in the bush

In her post "Walking the hills", Suzi-k gave some insights into the Basotho concept of "not far". Let me just add that our guide's concept of not far and ours were two different things. To me walking to the corner store is not far, but the mall on the other side of town is far, which is why I drive there. Jerry, our guide would no doubt say that the mall , "is not far" and to prove his point would walk there in record time.

The bakkie in the distance. This picture does not do the walk justice I was using my telephoto lens

So when Jerry said that the bushman paintings were not far we took him at his word. If you read Suzi-k's post you will remember that after a long walk we left her in the middle of the blue gum plantation and continued our journey.

Our destination was somewhere near the rocky outcrop you can see on the right, above the blue gums. The trees hide much of the terrain we had to traverse, before getting there. Mt Moorosi can be seen towards the centre of the picture.

To lighten my load, I left my ruck-sack with my water with her - bad move.

And so the journey continued, through the plantation the through an open field, down through an erosion gully, up another hill and finally we reached the Senqu River. "Not far", he cheerfully said.

"Oh good" I said, as we proceeded to follow the river for what seemed like an interminable distance, on a rocky slope that would have suited me better if my right leg had been 12 inches shorter than my left leg. "If only someone had had the foresight to boat people down the river", I thought, as I valiantly struggled on in the heat, battling to breathe in the thin mountain air. And of course dying for a drink of water.

Eventually we arrived and after struggling through some dense bush, there it was - the gallery in the bush.

The bottom of the original overhang floor has long since eroded away, leaving the paintings high up on the walls.

The main panel still has some pictures in fairly good condition. Life must have been tough for these people, yet in spite of it they had time to express their creativity on rock faces, in a way that has endured for many hundreds of years.

This guy was obviously into modern art.

Jerry pointing out some of the finer details of the artwork. He reminded me of of one of my old school teachers.

Some close ups. It is amazing that these pictures have survived for so long.

Another panel with figures.

Walking back along the Senqu River. After a few stops to catch my breath, we eventually made it back. I must admit that my shortness of breath made me wonder if I was heading for another heart attack, but as I had no chest pains, I realised it must have been the altitude and the thin air I was not acclimatised to.

The walk was tough and the distance was probably half-way to the mall on the other side of town. Would I do it again? For sure, but only if it is snowing.

08 May 2008

Skywatch Friday

Sunrise at Mount Moroosi, Lesotho

The early bird catches the con-trail

07 May 2008

Pastoral scene - Lesotho

A typical pastoral scene in Lesotho - a blanket wrapped herdsman tending to his cattle. This picture was taken on the back road, between Mohales Hoek and Malealea.

06 May 2008

Tuesdays Trees #4 - Blue Gum

This magnificent old Blue Gum tree was captured at the arboretum at Hogsback, as it reaches up towards the sky.

05 May 2008

Lesotho - first impressions

We entered the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho in the Southwest, at Tele Bridge, which borders on to the Eastern Cape. It is there that we first saw that Lesotho is a totally different world, to our own country that co,letely surrounds it and I guess, fell in love with the land and its people.

One similarity though is the taxis - when it comes to speeding and stopping in awkward places we are on a par - though I will be bold enough to say that ours are probably worse than theirs, when it comes to aggression.

As you start climbing from the river valley at Tele Bridge you see the first of many huts, probably very similar the the early stone structures. The older ones have walls built of beautifully dressed sandstone, while the inside walls are plastered with a mixture of clay and cow dung. Where corrugated iron has replaced thatch the roof sheets are held down with rocks, to prevent them from blowing off in the high winds that sweep through the country.

Taxis are an important mode of transport in the country - other than donkeys, horses, wheel barrows and of course feet.

The land is badly eroded eroded from over grazing. Wherever you go, whether in the river valleys or on the highest peaks, you will come across herdmen looking after their livestock.

We found that the people are warm and friendly. Wherever we went someone was smiling and waving at us as we drove past. Here a couple of women are headed home with firewood they have just collected.

Many of the Basotho people still wrap themselves in their traditional blankets when going out during the day, a custom that is unique to the Basothu.

The village of Mt Moorosi was organised chaos. Music blaring from radios, traders selling their wares and shoppers looking for a bargain. Believe it or not this is a main road - no wonder the speed limit through the towns is 50 kph.

If you happen to miss the speed limit sign, which is quite possible as there often aren't any, you may hit a rather nasty speed hump in the middle of the road, if you are not careful. As you will see in the picture below they are also not well marked.

The road to Mount Moorosi, where we spent our first two nights, followed the Senqu (Orange) River as it wound its way through rather hilly country.

Journey's end on day one was Mount Moorosi, which was the scene of an epic nine month seige and battle between the the Baputhi tribe and the British forces in 1879. It is a heroic and tragic story that I will be covering in a later post.

04 May 2008

Butterflies are free

This butterfly was very obliging, by hanging around long enough for me to get a picture. Their usual tendency is to fly away just as I am about the release the shutter. This was taken alongside the road just outside Alicedale.

03 May 2008

Roughing it in the Mountain Kingdom

We have been without phones and internet for six days since leaving for Lesotho, so this is my first opportunity to do a post. Lesotho may be surrounded by South Africa, but it is very different from South Africa. In fact in most parts of the country, it is like going back in time.

Though my cell phone is on international roaming, I could only send sms's when there was a signal. Public phones are available though.

Did I say we were going to camp?

In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "I lied". Not totally - we decided to go for variety. Looking at the wind swept camping site at Mt Moorosi we decided to try out the local accommodation - a stone built, thatched hut, with the internal walls plastered with a combination of mud and cow dung. In case you are wondering it does not stink, but creates a rather hard textured surface.

Suzi-k looking rather pleased with her abode for the next two nights. That's what it looked like before we filled it with our gear. It was a great experience, even though the matresses we a bit lumpy.

Greeting the dawn of a new day with a cup of hot coffee. By the way it was very cold up in the mountains - for those of us who come from a temperate coastal climate.

Even though we were in a remote area, with very little in the way of modern trappings, we were reminded of the big world that exists out there with the early morning "milk run" fron Durban to Port Elizabeth flying past.

We have so many interesting things to share about our experiences and life in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho and the journey up there, so watch this space and
Suzi-k's blog for more.