Thursday, November 26, 2015

Running in the neighborhood

I went for a morning jog around the neighbourhood.  Houses have tall walls topped with electrified wire, sharp metal spikes or stakes. Many larger homes have a guardhouse where a security guard sits.  Everyone has signs for armed response or Blue Security posted at regular intervals along the wall.  Driveways have 10 foot high, automatic gates.  When cars drive out they wait outside the gate until the gate is fully closed before driving off.

Outside the wall the streets have no sidewalks but are verged by green lawns and plantings with red earth paths walked into them.  Some have rockeries, bromeliads, ferns, wide-leafed grasses.  All the roads are lined with trees - the kind of trees that really make good shade.  The canopy is wide and well-leafed and many trees have someone sitting under them.

You don't see many white South African's walking.  The gardeners wearing blue overalls are raking leaves from the street, the driveways are leaf-free.  At some homes, a security guard sits on a plastic chair by the gate, while other workers load bricks from a pickup or polish the brass numbers on the wall.  Maids walk the dogs and others sit, chatting on the lawn while Common Indian Mynah birds hop and sing "keeky keeky keek churr churr kuk kuk kuk".  Occasional doves call from the dark trees.

The homes are large - with patios and deck chairs overlooking the distant sea.  Some have swimming pools and tennis courts.  All have big leafed plants and lawns of uneven green (weeds are common) studded with red-earth erupting mole-hills.  Jacarandas and Flame trees are common - big seed pods lie in the road along with purple jacaranda flowers (exam season) and red earth.  Outside the larger homes the red earth has been raked clear and you can see the lines of the raking in the sand by the street.

Ants make trails and crickets cheep.

I can see the hedge that will have martengulas later in the year, small avocados have fallen from some trees after recent winds.  Its hot and humid now - blue skies are being replaced by building clouds from inland and the sea flecks white.

This afternoon we say goodbye to Dad (who is flying to Cape Town for a weekend with the boys) and Wren and I will spend the night at Ammazulu in Kloof before flying home tomorrow.

Sugar and the "God Cell"

Wren: "I hate it when someone says you can have something for desert, like this turkish delight chocolate bar, and then you forget and you ask if you can have it now and they say 'no'"

Me: "Its breakfast!  Its 7.30am"

Wren falls face down on the bed and sighs, turns, looks at me with a quivering bottom lip and then lies face down again.

The power goes out unexpectedly in the Game Reserve and we are left sitting in the dark with one flashlight between us.  Dad and David ask if they can use the flashlight to get something from their cabin, 100 m or more distant, in the dark, with no fence around the camp.  We light candles in the lodge.

They ask: "Can we use the flashlight for a few minutes.  We will be back soon.  Otherwise it will be very dark walking to our room [unfenced lodge camp]?

Wren: I don't like to say this, but I am getting to the point where 'I just don't care'.

We are in the game reserve and stop by some fresh rhino dung where a dung beetle is working.  We open the window so Wren can see. He rolls down the window and makes a great sound of disgust.

"Argh! SHUT THE WINDOW.  My nose is vomiting!."

In this area of Durban North all the houses have Blue Security contracts and a special extra-active armed response team. On our return from the Game Reserve we found that our electric gate opener was flat and so we could not open the gate.  Because the gate and perimeter are topped with electric fence, we could not get in.  Dad drove off to buy a battery for the remote while Ingrid called Blue Security to see if they could open the gate.

Ingrid said "They have an override so if we called them in an emergency they could get in."

Rodger arrived in the security car.

He said "No, sorry.  We don't have the override. That is an added service. We get a God Cell in the car and that lets the guard on duty in the car get in for an emergency only.

Ingrid was puzzled.  She was told that with the Added Active Security package they would have a God Cell.  Dad was not sure he wanted Blue Security to have an all-access pass option.

Wren and I were listening.  We were quite intrigued by the God Cell and Wren kept mentioning it when people talked about the gate.

Today, Blue Security came over to consult with Ingrid. Later, I saw a receipt for the work order done today.  It said "Installed, one Guard Cell."

Aw, God would have been so much better.

Umhloti Beach Day

Today was our last full day in Durban.  We went up the North Coast to Umloti, to swim in the protected lagoon behind some rocky reefs.  When I was a girl we would come here to go musseling and look in the rock pools at low tide.  More recently, Dad and I have snorkelled to look at the fish who swim in the pool and collect around the rocky reef.

Umhloti Lagoon
Wren loved the lagoon and the rocks.  We saw many small fish and Wren was committed to catching one.  Unfortunately, we did not have a net.  I did have an old plastic container which he tried to scoop the fish with.  We did not succeed.  An elderly man with a long grey beard was snorkelling in and around the rock pools.  He was wearing a long white tunic and leggings.  He told me he was a Muslim and despaired of the world - the greed which drives wars and conflict - and did not understand it.  He said, we have all we want here with some fish.  I have a snorkel.  He wants to catch some small fish. Why do we need more?

Wren loves Cream Sodas.  They are bright green in South Africa. Today Wren learned he does not like them with ice.
At the Umhloti Coffee Shop overlooking the sea.  Wren had Calamari rings and I had a toasted sandwich.
Wren is trying to catch fish. 
"Did I get one yet?"
"I REALLY want to catch a fish."
The surf beyond the reef was strong but regular.
Some Durban sea photos for the expats.  It was a splendid Durban day... hot and muggy but not too much heat.  The sea was warm and wonderfully clean.
Yesterday we spent the morning at South Beach and Ushaka.  Wren loved it there too but didn't go in as deep because the waves were a bit bigger than Umhloti lagoon.
Wren was stalking an Ibis.  He thought perhaps it couldn't fly because when he walked faster, it walked faster.  Eventually, he cornered it and it flew away.
The young man of the left makes these sandcastles to raise money from tourists.  You pay him a few rand to take a photo in front of his sandcastles.  I was told that this is Zumas Zululand estate.  The one on the right is a rhino and it says "stop Poaching".  At North Beach there is a large Malaysian flight 371 with the Malaysian logo in coloured sand.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Morning Swim at North Beach

Wren & I went for a morning swim at North Beach.  It was only 8am but already hot and bright with lots of swimmers in the water. The surf life saving club juniors were swimming and running with their red boogie boards.  Wren jumped over the little waves - worried about his sore thumb which he cut on the mandolin slicer last night while copying Dad and I chopping apples.

The Thumb Cut
The cut was a Drama. I had been using a Mandoline slicer to prepare apples for a waldorf salad Ingrid was taking for Thanksgiving in South Africa. Mandolins are vile appliances on which home cooks trade mortal risk for the chance to have perfectly thin and even slices of fruit. Nobody who has cut off the top part of their thumb can look at one without feeling a bit queazy.  Generally, when you buy a mandolin it comes with various parts:
  • Liability disclaimer part
  • Slicer Blade Part
  • Grater Blade Parts
  • Plastic vegetable grip part.

After a few months, only the slicer blade part remains because the other parts are stupid and have been lost in the back of the cupboard  Yes, I said it... stupid. Despite the demonstration videos, you really can't hold a carrot with this plastic grip thing. To do so, you have to pre-sculpt the vegetable into just-right shaped parts which wastes all the curved bits.

Everyone knows holding the fruit or vegetable is dangerous so I don't know why we do it but we do. In fact, if you google "Mandoline Slicer da" it prefills the phrase:

"Mandoline Slicer Dangerous" and gives you articles with titles like:

Whatever you do, do not select IMAGE SEARCH for "Mandoline Slicer Dangerous"

Anyway, we were talking about how dangerous it was and I was going slowly, so Dad took over slicing and went fast. I felt ill and walked out the kitchen because I was sure he was going to cut himself. Wren was watching and eating apple slices.

Dad put it down to lemonize the apples and Wren just picked up a wedge of apple and started slicing it fast "whizz whizz".

I screamed "Nooooooo!"

But he was already screaming "Arghhhhh" and bleeding everywhere while I yelled at him about a minute late about the Mandoline slicer.  I think there was a Fuck in there too.

It bled for a long while and took three bandaids, including a cool bandaid from Japan and caledula ointment to stop it.  It rather ruined the evening because Wren had ongoing commentary about his finger with themes like:
  1. Will I get an infection?
  2. OH GOD, I shook my hand it will start bleeding again.
  3. Will I die of blood loss?
  4. Why has Futurama stopped?
  5. When will it stop throbbing?
  6. I can't eat Thanksgiving in South Africa because of the pain.
  7. I can't play iPad anymore.
Back to the Beach
So, this morning we went swimming at North Beach and despite swearing he would not swim, Wren was pleased that his cut did not sting. In fact, the bandaids fell off and it does not look so bad. Dad warned that the top of the finger will dry up and fall off.  I have not mentioned that to Wren yet as its only a small piece of finger but he is probably attached it it. Well, he is attached to it now and that would worry him.

The beach was stunning.  Warm water and small waves.  I took Wren out about 4 m from breaking waves past the little sandbank (right on shore) to a place that he could only just stand but could float up and down the waves holding onto the boogie board.  I said he could say "Home" anytime and I would take him back to the shallows.  He said "Home" twice - once when a wave was a little steeper than usual and once when he was concerned about a big wave. We plan to swim every day that there is sunshine.

Morning coffee at Juran was great.  David and I had soy.

David has headed back to Cape Town with his 100% Rye Bread and Garlic oil.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday in Durban

A Morning Bike Ride
Dad likes to take the dogs running on Saturday morning.  Dad rides his mountain bike and the dogs run alongside (on leashes) or - when its wild - free. Ingrid is worried about this because the dogs sometimes run in front of the tyres and make Dad fall off.  Being almost 70, this is a bit risky but he does it anyway.

I haven't been exercising so I agreed to go on a morning ride with Dad. He said "about 5.30am" which is early but we were on Game Reserve Time so it seemed okay.

This morning, at first light Dad tapped on my bedroom door and we dresssed quickly and drove north up the coast road to a sugar cane plantation where Dad likes to ride.  There is a lovely dirt road by the river where weavers nest and monkeys bark from the huge groves of bamboo.  As we arrived at the gas station where he parks, I asked what time it was.  It was 4.45am.

"I thought it was dark because of the weather" said Dad.  There were storms last night with high winds, thunder and lightening.  The sea was calm but the sand was wet and there were twigs and fallen baby avocados on the ground in the garden.

We rode off with the dogs and the first half of the ride was easy.  We passed a man walking through the cane with his fishing rod on the way to the beach, some workers with their green overalls and work boots walked up to a farm with a blue tractor and otherwise not even the monkeys were awake.

The second half the ride was really hard! We road up a steep and endless red-earth and gravel road through the cane.  Dad's bikes gears are crap and so they kept crunching and slipping.  My thighs muscles were twitching and I felt ill with exertion. Is Dad 70 or am I?  Eventually, at the end of the endless hill Dad said "We are almost at the highest point.  Do you want to go the short way home or the other way which is 10% further".

This was a blantant lie.  We were far from the highest point and I doubt it was 10% further.  After many more ascents and steep descents, I am now mud splattered and exhausted.

A good breakfast of haloumi and vegges with wicked cheesy-hash-browns and two coffees has softened the memory but I could do with a nap.

Day 6: Hilltop and Back to Durban

Hilltop is humanity. Wren is 100% happy here. We have learned that an important feature of humanity is a building which does not have holes by which nature can enter. Down at Munyaweni the floorboards had up to half cm gaps which is how the scorpions and spiders wandered in. The eves were also open which is how the bats and snake came in and the walls in some parts of the house were only slatted bamboo. Even the doors were more conceptual - without locks or fastenings beyond a piece of wood which rested in a shallow depression.

As Lanny reflected after seeing the lion run away on the day walk iions don’t want to come into human places. Now hyenas are another matter.

Anyway, Hilltop camp has nearly sealed rooms. The floors are tile and the eaves are sealed.  We slept wonderfully and only a line of ants carrying a dead beetle disturbed our sanctuary.

Morning Stroll at Hilltop
On our morning walk in Hilltop we saw a crushed scorpion in the road which ants were eating.  Wren was interested but didn’t want me to take it home and draw it.  Monkeys were out eating in the fruiting trees and flying across the gaps in the canopy with noisy scrambling landings.

We enjoyed a buffet breakfast with many sausages.  Wren likes South African breakfasts because, unlike the US, there are many meats.  On the buffet was pork sausage, chicken sausage, thick rasher bacon, eggs, tomatoes, spreads (Marmite, Bovril, tomato sauce, peri-peri and two mustards) and toast.

The German tourists were upset because they had to queue to make their own toast. They felt this was inefficient and complained.  There was sometimes a gap in toast-manufacture when the person in front of the line waited for their toast to appear but didn’t anticipate the toast-needs of the person behind them.

Fetching the Hikers
At lunch we fetched the hikers from the Trails Camp near Mpila.  They had had a great 3 day hike - being surrounded by lions in the darkness, by elephant and being semi-stormed by a bull elephant.  The Adams shareholders were red-faced, slightly burnt and thrilled by the experience.

We stopped at the Litchi Orchard Delish Sisters near home and had more food.  The litchis are still not ripe and the monkeys are stealing them, green or not!

It was good to be home. Nobody wanted dinner.

BBC News is only talking about the Paris bombings and the Mali Hostages.  It is so repetitive that we decided not to watch anything.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Day 5: Munyaweni - Baboon Spider

Wren is afraid of spiders but also fascinated by them.  Hearing that there were bats and a Baboon Spider in Lanny and Pete's cabin, he wanted to go and see them.  He prepared to enter with his wooden panga in one hand and his pangolin carving in the other.

We did not see the baboon spider.  Wren said "Knowing there is a baboon spider but I do not know where it is is EVEN WORSE than seeing a baboon spider."

He thought a bit then added: "Or you could say, if you don't know its there its not really there. So I am okay".

Lanny took a picture of it which she will share.  For now, here is the Baboon Spider Atlas and I trust that if you want to see it you google Harpactira Baboon Spider for a picture.

Preparing to enter the Baboon Spider Zone with panga raised. 
Playing Disc World afterwards

Day 5: Munyaweni - Moth Tent and the Beast

Dawn Chorus
Being in Kwazulu-Natal I am reminded why I was a birdwatcher.  During the dawn chorus every bleating, trilling, cooing-thing gives voice.  Sitting on my balcony at 5am I saw:
  1. Two livingstone's turaco (were louries) walking around a fig tree.
  2. A pair of black collared barbets.
  3. The usual white-eyes, european swallows, fork tailed drongas, Hadedahs and doves.
By 6.00 am the song had faded to calling and I could hear the barks of baboons coming down to the last remaining water.

Something Chewing This Way Comes
Last night, our cook (Siyabonga) heard the sound of chewing outside the lodge where we were eating. We are light starved and had only two small flashlights with AA batteries which cast a narrow LED beam that can’t get into the shadows.  He poked at the night thorn brush with it and then said “Maybe buffalo.”

I asked what it sounded like and he said “grinding”

This is reassuring because its what herbivores do. 

We all tried to listen but when we were quiet we realised we are very noisy.  I could hear David chewing his cheese flavoured rice crackers “CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH” and Wren was full of mutterings and squeaky floorboards. As is usually the case, I could not hear myself so I am either a ninja or selectively deaf.

A short while later Siyabonga beckoned us to come to the balcony where he said the “Rhino is very close”.  Indeed, some large chomping beast was just below the balcony. Unfortunately, when we arrived with our crappy torch and crashing noise the Beast took fright and lumbered off blowing wind like a huge horse.  It was a hippo!  

We poked at it vaguely with the ineffectual torch but could only see a reddish-brown shadow moving down the creek.  Our hippo!

Sounding much like my mother, I said “Hippos are very dangerous” and Siyabonga looked at me and said nothing. Wren put his anti-moth-shawl-tent over his head and we went back to dinner which was pasta and canned tomatoes sauce.  It was fabulous!  David is on a diet at could not eat the pasta and sauce so he had potato and squash, loud rice crackers, sliced meat and salad.  He is able to eat whole platters of salad.

The Moth Tent
The hawk moths were pretty bad in the kitchen tonight.  There were at least 10 large ones sitting on the window under the light.  Large means 1 to 2 inches from head to tail. Whenever you went into the kitchen or changed the lighting of the room, they adjusted position and flapped and clung around (one’s head) in a  way that alarmed moth-sensitive Wren who kept spinning his head around wildly watching for them, and could not eat.  David offered to be on Moth Watch so Wren could concentrate on food.  

“Moth coming” he’d call and Wren would duck under a tent made from my pashmina.

Wren in the Moth Tent

“All clear” said David so Wren could eat some more pasta.

“Go under for a bit” - as one particularly fat-bodied moth thumped on the table and relaunched at the light.

“Keep eating now!” as they settled.

When are we going back to Humanity?

"When are we going back to humanity?” asks Wren?  

Apparently this bush lodge is not humanity at all despite having a full bathroom in our room, partial electricity and lovely walkways through the bush.  The lack of fence, dull lighting, unfenced accommodation, large insects, beasts moving around at night and lack of other people make Wren feel that we have left civilisation. I am looking forward to taking him to the Okavango sometime when he is 12.

“Hilltop Camp is half humanity” he says.  Being right out of the Game Reserve is full humanity.

Tonight we head for half-humanity.

"Humanity is the human race. In the game reserve there are too many animals and that does not feel nice.  Animals could prey on you at any moment.  The moths pester you.  Ideal humanity is where I live in Seattle. I mean, I do like the game reserve but only when I am in the car."

This insect infestation contributes to lack of Humanity.
These are flying ants which were mating on Wren's dinner plate.
This is zebra. Does it make you afraid? It is not humanity.
We have been driving around for 4 days hoping to see an animal for which
we could be prey. We did not find one. (Wren: "but it could eat us so its not Humanity")

Day 4 Munyaweni: Afternoon

Highlight of the afternoon drive was a warthog with two tiny piglets.  They were just the right size for an eagle to snatch.  They spent their time under their mother, in her shadow or running around after each other around her before dashing back into safety.  She was walking along rooting in the ground.

The lions from yesterday had moved down off the ridge and were now in the riverside scrub where they were low to the ground and only visible from game trucks.

We saw some buffalo, rhino, zebra and warthog in a close group by the road.  I hope these pictures upload.