Saturday, November 30, 2013

Flying the home flag

Well, Ketoro has been flying her home flag in Richards Bay, but we have not been there to see it, as we have almost permanently been elsewhere!

Ketoro (far left) at Zululand (Richards Bay) Yacht Club marina
But from the moment we landed, we had a great welcoming by lots of family -
Grand-dads take grandsons for walks to the hard stand – an outing both enjoy! 
Family visit: Livi (the day's chef) and Irene with Ingi and Caz 
What a difference there is between the first month after landing in a new country and the first month after landing in your home country.
The former sees frenetic activity as you try to cover all the bases (seeing the sights, observing the people, learning the customs, exploring the countryside/town/shopping options) while the latter sees (equally? MORE?) frenetic activity as you rapidly resume the "I'm home" strategies (visiting with friends and family; seeking work: Rolf went to Johannesburg; doing necessary medical procedures: Irene went to Cape Town; topping up the storage lockers with familiar foodstuff: we all went to Pick ‘n Pay and Woollies!).
Never far from the sea - here Cape Town 
Leaving the boat in the RBYC marina, we are happily resuming life in SA and seeing home with different eyes, having been away for over 4 years and now looking at our country as our cruiser friends would.
Cruising has put us in touch with wonderful people from all over the world, who are interested and extract from us information on South Africa – forcing us to gather our thoughts into coherent information. We now enjoy hearing from them about their actual experiences as many have now sailed here and travelled ashore.

The item generally on top of a foreigners list is to go "on safari" - South Africans are spoilt for choice with game parks but people the world over get very excited at the thought of seeing elephant, rhino and lion in their natural environment. Well, to be honest, after a break of more than six years since our last game park visit, we were excited too, and a trip to Hluhluwe-Umfolozi was a priority.
A typical KZN rural scene en route to the park – we look at it with new eyes! 
The bush was looking magnificent in its (southern hemisphere) post-rains spring green, and baby animals were everywhere - a lovely time to visit. One of the best things about a game park visit is that it forces you to slow down and relax (although we suspect that many of our foreign friends are not doing this enough, in order to tick that big 5 box in their limited available time!)

Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to stop:
Game drive on hold for a magnificent rhino pair 
Then baby came out and dad’s look became a warning. This was a narrow road.
After a half hour impasse we turned around and decided on another drive route! 
We have become tree-huggers! (A dearth of those at sea) 
Sometimes a tree’s silhouette is enhanced – this time by giraffe,
animals with a great silhouette themselves! 
Elephant “land mines” were prolific –
and carefully avoided in order to save any dung beetles busy in them
Dung beetle in traditional pose – head-down, pushing its ball of dung up a slope 

A collection of comments in connection with game parks…
First, the reception room always has a mapped magnet-board for placing your latest sightings; well, there are no longer magnets for rhinos here – an effort to limit communication to poachers. We are reminded of the stir we caused in China in 2012 when a SA R10 note fell out of a bag onto the table: we were astonished by the state of excitement of the locals who gathered round the table when they saw it.

We now also have a new breed of poacher: one sourcing vulture heads for traditional medicines that are expected to provide “clairvoyant powers, foresight and increased intelligence”… apparently particularly to suit the demand for greater gambling and lotto success. The weekend we were at Hluhluwe, 37 white-backed vultures died from eating a poisoned elephant carcass. Vultures have been killed in their hundreds in Africa recently – 400 in a single poisoning case in Namibia in early 2013.

Now on a much lighter note: the BIG 5, little 5, ugly 5… and “plant 5”.

The Big 5 of course are elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion and rhino. But these guys have inspired the creation of other groupings, to make game or bush drives more fun and focussed (more boxes to tick!?)...

Another Big 5 beast; we did not see the cats this trip, but of course everyone else saw lion! 
The Little 5? Elephant shrew (with a long nose), buffalo weaver bird, leopard tortoise, ant lion and rhinoceros beetle (which looks a lot like a miniature rhino).

The Ugly 5 are evidently (fondly!?) considered to be the hyena, wildebeest, vulture, warthog (Irene's favourite beast!) and marabou stork.

Finally: the Plant 5 are indigenous plants with Big 5 animal names - the leopard orchid, buffalo thorn bush (of which giraffes are very fond), rhino coffee shrub, lion’s tail (wild dagga/marijuana) and elephant food (spekboom).
“At least we had a decent aggressive thorn named after us. I would have hated an orchid”
The best part of being home is the chance to spend time with family and good friends again - here to celebrate Oma's (Rolf’s Mom) 88th birthday with her.

Now back on the boat, we watch for a weather window to set sail for Cape Town, and wonder if we will be driven to take refuge from the storm fronts en route.... Maybe not such a bad thing after all, giving us a chance to see the country differently from our previous visits, and now as our yachtie friends would!
Looking beyond the yachts to the tanker entering the channel which we will exit tomorrow
We think we will leave on Sunday 1 December: follow us on the google earth link on the right… and hope for fair winds and seas, please!