The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek Fugard Theatre Cape Town

Billboard Signature Theatre Company NYC

Yesterday I saw Athol Fugard’s play The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek performed at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. The short play is touching and emotional and one of the best I’ve seen! Before opening in South Africa, the play made its début at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York City performed by the Signature Theatre Company.

Mr. Fugard has written some forty plays. Many of them were made into films. Tsotsi won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Tshamano Sebe and Siya Jantjie

Tshamano Sebe and Siya Jantjie

“Throughout his long and distinguished career, Mr. Fugard has been anatomizing the evils of apartheid and the troubling legacies it left behind. His new play considers both the brutal injustices of apartheid and the violence that roiled South Africa after its dismantling. His work spans the period of apartheid in South Africa through the first democratic elections and Nelson Mandela’s presidency into present day post-apartheid South Africa.”

Nukain Mabuza Stone Garden

Nukain Mabuza Stone Garden

The play is inspired by the life of outsider artist Nukain Mabuza. There are three characters – Nukain (Tshamano Sebe), (Bokkie) Siya Jantjie, and Elmarie Kleynhans (Anna-Mart Van Der Merwe). The play opens with Nukain speaking to young Bokkie about the culture of apartheid and the “moral blindness on which it was based”.

Nukain Mabusa Rocks

Nukain Mabuza Painted Rocks

The first act takes place on a Sunday morning when the old farm worker performs his chore of painting bright colors on the rocks that dot the dry South African landscape. “The creation of these ‘flowers,’ as Nukain calls them, was a task he began years before, and which has become a weekly pleasure he shares with young Bokkie, the 11-year-old boy in his charge.”

Anna-Mart Van Der Merwe

Anna-Mart Van Der Merwe

“They got eyes but they do not see us”, says the gentle old man to the boy. “Both are black South Africans, and the man’s observation refers to the white farmers for whom he works.”

Bokkie, Elmarie, Nukain

Bokkie, Elmarie, Nukain

Much to the “consternation of young Bokkie who is eager to watch him work,” Nukain cannot seem to get started painting the one remaining sizable rock. “Taller than Nukain and a good six feet wide, the rock is a looming final challenge that he shies away from for reasons he cannot quite understand. While he considers the prospects, the energetic young Bokkie tries to cajole and coax him into beginning, and Nukain finds himself reflecting on his life.”

Siya Jantjie

Siya Jantjie

The arrival of Elmarie, the wife of the white farmer who owns the land, “dampens the excitement both Nukain and Bokkie have taken in their work”. She comments about the design painted on the big rock, and casually “insists that Nukain paint over it next week in his more decorative, innocuous style — a suggestion, or rather a demand, that Bokkie angrily rejects.”

“Nukain accepts Elmarie’s demand with the reflexive humility born of a steady diet of privation, dependency, and racism. Bokkie is left with only the wistful thought that in some future day Elmarie and her husband will open their eyes and then see us.”

Nukain Mabuza Rocks

Nukain Mabuza Rocks

Tshamano Sebe (Nukain) was born in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto and later moved to Berlin where he became a founding member of the Soyikwa African Theatre group. He returned to South Africa in 1993 where he starred in the SABC hit television series Stokvel and won many awards for his performances in local and international films.

Athol Fugard

Athol Fugard

Siya Jantjie (Bokkie) is 11 years old and goes to school in the Cape Town suburb of Rondebosch where he enjoys soccer, playing the piano and marimba, and singing in the choir. Talented Siya also attends the Waterfront Theatre School where he studies tap dancing, modern dancing, drama, and musical theatre. The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is Siya’s first professional performance.

Tshamano Sebe

Tshamano Sebe

Anna-Mart Van Der Merwe (Elmarie Kleynhans) is “an award-winning bilingual (English and Afrikaans) actress, best known for her leading roles in local television series.”  She has starred in many films and theatre productions.

Johan Botha and Friends at Artscape Opera House

Johan Botha Tenor

Johan Botha Tenor

Last night I was lucky to attend an Opera Gala at Cape Town’s Artscape Theatre celebrating life with South African Tenor Johan Botha and his friends:

Goitsemang Llehobye Soprano

Goitsemang Llehobye Soprano

Conductor Bernhard Gueller and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra accompanied the four singers.

Bongiwe Nakani Mezzo-soprano

Bongiwe Nakani Mezzo-soprano

“Botha was born in Rustenburg, South Africa. He made his stage début in 1989 and an international breakthrough in 1993 at the Opéra Bastille, Paris as Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Since then Botha has performed at leading opera venues around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, Opera Australia, Royal Opera House in London, La Scala in Milan, and the Salzburg Festival. He lives in Vienna with his wife and two sons.”

Mandla Mndebele Baritone

Mandla Mndebele Baritone

The program included an overture and intermezzo by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and arias from composers Verdi, Puccini, Leoncavallo, and others. There were duets and quartets and the Artscape Opera House looked very elegant.  I found Goitsemang Lehobye to be especially talented. Her duet from Otello with Bongiwe Nakani was touching.

Artscape Light Fixtures

Artscape Mezzanine Light Fixtures

Sadly I had to leave the performance early since I’ve been suffering from a very bad case of flu and knew coughing would not be appreciated. Hearing these singers perform in person was a wonderful experience and fond memory!

Mouille Point and Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard

Green Point Lighthouse

Green Point Lighthouse

For several months, I’ve been living in Mouille Point (moo-lee) situated along the Atlantic Ocean. It’s near Sea Point, Green Point Park, Cape Town Stadium, and Victoria and Albert Waterfront. So far, Cape Town’s winter has been mild with mostly warm sunny days.

Mouille Point and Surrounding Areas

Mouille Point and Surrounding Areas

Atlantic Seaboard Promenade and Green Point Park

Mouille Point is a small active neighborhood with paved seaboard promenade on one side and urban Green Point Park on the other. Every day visitors frequent the popular area, including joggers, walkers, baby strollers, skaters, and cyclists.

Mouille Point Promenade

Mouille Point Promenade

Mouille Point is a “put-in” spot for sea kayakers. Points along the seaboard are also popular with surfers (wet suits essential) and divers. Seabirds that circle overhead include cormorants, seagulls, and the giant albatross. Hadeda Ibis hang out on the other side in Green Park making their loud, distinctive haa-haa-haa-de-dah call.

Heavisides Dolphin

Heaviside’s Dolphin

albatross

Giant Albatross

Seals, penguins, endemic Heaviside’s dolphins, and even an occasional right whale visit the coastline. I’ve been continually entertained and amazed by Mouille Point’s sea life, sights and smells, sometimes violent surf, and indescribable sunsets! The Promenade is equally enchanting during sunny and stormy days.

Kayaker Sunset Mouille Point

Kayaker Sunset Mouille Point

Green Point Common lies slightly inland on the other side of Mouille Point next to Cape Town Stadium. The green haven includes soccer fields, duck ponds, children’s playgrounds, a golf course, and Green Point Urban Park and Biodiversity Garden.

History of Shipwrecks

Green Point Park Pond

Pond Green Point Park

“The name ‘Mouille’ comes from the French word for a marine anchoring ground. In the 18th century ships were often swept ashore in Table Bay. The governor decided to build a breakwater (mouille in French) to protect anchored vessels. Work began in 1743. Farmers who delivered goods to the city were required to load up their wagons with stones, drive out to Mouille Point, and offload them into the Bay.”

S. A. Seafarer

S. A. Seafarer

“Braving high seas, slaves and convicts toiled at building the breakwater. After three years of hard labor they had completed a mere 100m (110 yards) and the project was abandoned. In 1781 the French arrived and built a battery near the unfinished mouille, naming it Mouille Point Battery.”

Cape Town Stadium

Cape Town Stadium

In 1966, despite the presence of nearby lighthouses, during a fierce winter storm the S. A. Seafarer ran aground between Mouille Point and Three Anchor Bay. Everybody on board was rescued by helicopters from South Africa’s Ysterplaat Air Force Base.

Green Point Park Walkway

Green Point Park Walkway

Later, Green Point Lighthouse replaced Mouille Point Lighthouse. Traditionally a new lighthouse cannot take the name of an older one. Today Green Point Lighthouse is a popular landmark and its red-stripes brighten the promenade.

Cape Town Stadium from Green Point Park

Cape Town Stadium from Green Point Park

Shipwrecks along Mouille Point include the Royal Mail Steamer Athens, which ran aground in 1865 during The Great Table Bay Gale 17 May. The colossal gale wrecked seventeen ships! The iron engine block of the Athens is visible off shore. It’s possible to dive the wreck which has been “salvaged” for over 150 years! The Athens wreck is said to be badly broken up and overgrown with kelp and sea urchins.

Hadeda Ibis

Hadeda Ibis

Since spice traders began sailing around Cape Point, Cape Town’s storms have claimed many ships. Some were “lost to the sea” while others are visible and accessible to divers. The remains of shipwrecks can still be seen resting on beaches along the Cape Peninsula’s coastline.

Green Point Common

Green Point Garden

Green Point Garden Flower

“In the 18th century the Green Point Common was known by the Dutch as De Waterplaats (the Foreshore). It extended from Three Anchor Bay to Cape Town and included most of the land towards Sea Point and the coastline. The Common was granted to the Cape Town City Council in 1923 by the Union Government.”

Ducks Green Point Garden

Duck Pond Green Point Garden

“The Common has a colorful history as a sports field and recreation site for Capetonians. Horse races were held at the Common until Kenilworth Racecourse took its place. Sailing regattas ran along the promenade and at the turn of the century the area hosted an Imperial Exhibition. The Common was also a venue for some of the earliest rugby and cricket matches in the Cape, and the Green Point Track was important for cycling and track and field sports.”

Cape Town Stadium

Promenade Cyclists

Promenade Cyclists

Cape Town Stadium replaced Green Point Stadium and was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Today it’s the home ground of Premier Soccer League clubs Ajax Cape Town and Cape Town City. Since 2016 the stadium has hosted competitions like the HSBC Sevens World Rugby Series.

V and A Waterfront

Victoria and Albert Waterfront

After the FIFA World Cup, the Business Venture Investments 1317 consortium was awarded the service contract to manage the stadium and ensure that it remained a sustainable multi-purpose venue. In 2016, the group still manages the stadium.

Royal Mail Steamer Athens

Royal Mail Steamer Athens

Cape Town Stadium is available for concerts and other venues and can host from 10 or less to 55,000 people. Spaces for rent include a mixing lounge, business zone, presidential suite, playing courts, and conference rooms. It was recently used to host a concert by American singer Mariah Carey.

Oranjezicht Cape Town

Protea Fynbos

Protea Fynbos

The hikes this weekend were urban outings in Oranjezicht and Bo-Kaap. Oranjezicht rests on the lower slopes of Table Mountain, and I think it’s one of Cape Town’s most beautiful neighborhoods. The name Oranjezicht means “orange view” in Dutch.

Wooded Area

Wooded Area

We began our hike at the entrance to Van Riebeeck Park and followed a gentle trail toward Table Mountain. Part of the uphill was in a small, narrow ravine along a wooden Plankiespad (boardwalk) which passed the Lower PlatteklipStroom (stream). On the way down the mountain we hiked through a wooded area called “Tooth Fairy Ravine”.

Wild Peach Tree

Wild Peach Tree

I’ve been lost in the residential part of Oranjezicht and have difficulty pronouncing the name – or ren ya zicht. This is a link for the correct Afrikaans pronunciation. As you drive through Oranjezicht’s winding, wooded streets it doesn’t seem possible that it’s so close to Cape Town’s busy Central Business District.

Van Riebeck Park

Van Riebeeck Park

Many of Oranjezicht’s older houses are Cape Dutch architecture. Some of the newer, more modern homes have over sized windows, taking advantage of big skies and dramatic views of the Bay, Table Mountain, and surrounding trees and fynbos vegetation.

Tielman

Tielman

The neighborhood lies on the site of Oranjezicht Farm – fertile land at the foot of Table Mountain. In the 1700s the farm supplied the Castle of Good Hope with fresh produce.

Wild Peach Leaves

Wild Peach Leaves

Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company – Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) in Dutch – built the Castle of Good Hope to support ships passing Cape Town en route to the lands of tea and spices. The Castle is the oldest colonial building in South Africa.

King Protea

King Protea

Ship’s officers, burghers, and their families visited Oranjezicht Farm to wander through the lush gardens and fill their baskets with fresh fruit and vegetables. “Produce was brought to a cobbled yard and weighed on a scale hanging from a large oak tree. With exotic flowers adding colour to the scene and abundant trees providing shady walks, fruit and vegetable shopping was a pleasurable occasion for all.”

African Monarch Butterfly

African Monarch Butterfly

Our well-educated hike leader, Tielman Haumann, is a Cape Town native. His family roots date back many generations. Before the hike, Tielman e-mailed hikers a list of the area’s indigenous plants and fynbos – which most of us found a bit intimidating. However, there were no worries since Tielman knew the trees and plants well. To our delight another member of the hiking group was a butterfly expert.

Cape Ash Tree

Cape Ash Tree

Between descriptions of the plants and butterflies, and fascinating folklore stories, it was an educational and entertaining outing. I spent a few minutes chatting one-on-one with Tielman who had visited Oregon. He liked Portland and enjoyed hiking in the Pacific Northwest and beautiful Cascade Mountains.

Fynbos

Fynbos

Of course birds and butterflies play a significant role in the local ecosystem and propagation of Table Mountain’s fynbos. We spotted several African Monarch Butterflies. These glorious orange butterflies are poisonous. Our expert said the way to spot a poisonous butterfly is to watch its wing patterns upon landing. Non-poisonous butterflies slowly open and close their wings when they land. Poisonous butterflies leave their wings spread wide open. I never knew there were poisonous butterflies, let alone how to spot one!

Cape Ash Berries

Cape Ash Berries

Some of Oranjezicht’s most abundant trees include the Wild Peach (Kiggelaria Africana), Wild Olive (Olienhout), King Protea (Protea Cynaroides), and Cape Ash (Ekebergia Capensis).  We also saw, and tasted, several varieties of wild berry. The Oak trees that grow in South Africa have weak wood so oak used for building construction and wine casks is imported from Europe, mostly France. Some of the non-indigenous trees and plants are from Australia, Europe, New Zealand, Mexico, Tasmania, and the Mediterranean.

Indigenous Bush

Indigenous Bush

We passed by the Sayed Abdul Matik Kramat and took a peek inside where several Muslims were praying. Kramats are holy burial sites of notable Sheikhs, called Auliyah in Islam. The Cape Peninsula has 20 recognized Kramats – three of them nestled in isolated outer districts that are difficult to reach.

Farmer Market

Farmers Market

Oranjezicht History

Tielman told us a new local book about Oranjezicht was recently published. The neighborhood’s history is compelling and affected greatly by Pieter van Breda. In 1719 van Breda sailed on the ship Spieringh from Flanders in northern Belgium to Cape Town. In 1731 van Breda acquired the Oranjezicht estate which remained in his family for two centuries.

French OakTree

Oak Tree

“Oranjezicht was probably named either because it overlooked the Oranje bastion of the Castle of Good Hope or due to the sight of abundant orange trees growing in Table Valley.” As time passed, the van Bredas increased their land holdings growing their Oranjezicht estate to cover the largest part of Table Valley. Terraces were built for cultivating vines, but the estate’s main source of income came from the sale of fruit and vegetables.

Fynbos

Table Mountain Fynbos

The van Bredas were known for their hospitality and entertaining guests on the lavish Oranjezicht estate. “Pieter had his own house orchestra of 30 flute and violin players in uniform. They performed in one of many gardens on a raised bandstand encircled by trees”.

Entrance to Kramut

Entrance to Kramat

The demise of Oranjezicht began in 1877 when the Purchase Act enabled the Municipality of Cape Town to buy more than 12 morgen on which to build water reservoirs. Today the water reserve is called Molteno Reservoir. Five years later another Municipal Act claimed more of the opulent van Breda estate and their right to impound water from the farm’s many springs. Without water the farm became useless.

Oranjezicht City Farm

Castle of Good Hope

Castle of Good Hope

Gradually more and more land was sold but members of the van Breda family continued to live on the land into the 20th century. In 1947 the Cape Town City Council purchased the van Breda house which was demolished in 1955 to make way for a sports club. In 2013 Oranjezicht City Farm (OZCF), a community farm, replaced the club.

Stream Crossing

Stream Crossing

Saturdays the OZCF hosts a community farmers market at V&A Waterfront for independent local farmers and local artisan food producers. Customers can purchase fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, organic dairy, free-range eggs, honey, and muesli. You can also sample cooked and raw foods, edible plants, and seedlings. In addition to food, the OZCF sells compost and gardening supplies. Haven’t made it to the market yet, but it’s on my “must do” list.

Oranjezcht Poster

Oranjezicht Poster

Mouille Point and Bo-Kaap posts to follow soon….

Jonkershoek Nature Reserve South Africa

Pink Proteas

Pink Proteas

For several months I’ve been hiking Table Mountain and Cape Town’s outlying nature reserves. The Western Cape has so many beautiful reserves it will take a long time to visit them all! Last weekend the hike was at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve near Stellenbosch.

Jonkershoek Hills

Jonkershoek Hills

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“Jonkershoek is one of four nature reserves that form part of the greater Cape Winelands Biosphere – a World Heritage Site registered by UNESCO in late 2007. The Biosphere reserve is gorgeous – beautiful is the understatement of the year.”

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Jonkershoek Reserve is surrounded by the Jonkershoek Mountains, a part of the larger Boland Mountain Range, which in turn is part of the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. The area is strikingly beautiful with hiking trails embraced by magnificent blue jagged peaks.  The heavy fynbos vegetation is pure heaven for Cape sunbirds and sugarbirds.

Theewaterskloof Dam near Villiersdorp

Blaauwklippen Valley

There are two major waterfalls in the Jonkershoek Reserve. The hike to Tweede Waterval (second waterfall in Afrikaans) flows along the fertile hills of Guardian Peak (Blaauwklippen Valley in Afrikaans). Guardian Peak, also called the “Hidden Valley”, is well-known for its popular restaurants and wine estates, including those in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl.

Hikers

Hikers

The ascent to the waterfall was steep, windy, and rocky. The scenic trail was bordered by bud-laden protea forests, mountain fynbos, and river rick pools ending in a wooded cove near the base of Tweede Waterfall. I am fascinated by exotic Cape Proteas! Hundreds of different protea types flourish in South Africa’s rich fynbos.

If you wanted to get closer to the waterfall, you were sure to get wet. Some in our group removed their boots and climbed to the base of the waterfall barefooted. Others stayed behind in the cove and enjoyed more distant views. After climbing in the cool spray over a few slippery boulder-sized rocks, I decided it was too risky, wimped out, and returned to the cove.

Taking a leisurely pace, we returned via Jonkershoek’s first waterfall – also impressive. The winter weather was perfect for hiking – brisk with a crystal clear sky. After a peaceful, inspiring day enjoying nature we stopped at an outdoor café for well-deserved cappuccino.

Now that I’ve been in Cape Town for almost six months I’m considering moving to a less-populated outlying suburb for contrast. Stellenbosch, Hout Bay, Gordons Bay, Fish Hoek, and Somerset West in the Helderberg Mountains are all interesting.

Botswana Bushmen, Okavango Delta, Burglary, Fire, and Chobe National Park

Mokoro Okavango Delta

Mekoro on the Okavango Delta

We departed Namibia February 9th for a week exploring Botswana, the Okavango Delta, and Chobe National Park. Thankfully the Namibia to Botswana border crossing went smoothly. As we crossed into Botswana our African guides reminded us of two local rules:

Carmine Bee Eater

Carmine Bee Eater

We spent the night in Ghanzi – a small town in the middle of the Kalahari Desert. Called the “capital of the Kalahari” Ghanzi is known for its cattle farms and a “conglomeration of ethnic groups”. The San and Bakgalagadi were Ghanzi’s original inhabitants. In the late 1800s the HereroBatawana, and others settled in the area.

Hippo Yawns?

Hippo Yawns

Ghanzi villagers maintain an abundance of cattle, donkeys, and sheep, all affected by serious drought in the area over the past several years. Their animals graze along the roadside and at times on the roads! Driving in the area is tricky with the government imposing a severe punishment for injuring animals.

Chobe Hippo

Chobe Hippo

Botswana is socially conscious and invests in the education and healthcare of its people. The country doesn’t have the racial issues of many other African countries. The Botswana government uses a form of ecotourism – “high income and low impact tourism”. They charge more than adjacent African countries prohibiting some travelers from visiting Botswana, and thereby reducing the number of tourists entering the country. Luxury safari camps are common but more basic accommodations are comfortable as well.

Wildebeest

Wildebeest Herd

Botswana won independence from Britain in 1966. Today it’s a politically stable country with the greatest economy in sub-Saharan Africa.  Botswana’s diamond mines are the richest and most abundant in the world.

Cheetah Resting

Cheetah Resting

Botswana’s highest producing diamond mines exist on volcanic kimberlite pipes composed of a rare type of rock formed millions of years ago. During volcanic eruptions plumes of magma pushed up tearing off chunks of diamond-containing rocks depositing them near the surface of the earth.

San Bushman

San Bushman

Botswana Bushmen

During our first evening in Botswana, we enjoyed a special treat – traditional tribal dancing performed by the local San community. Previously known as “Bushmen”, the mellow San are indigenous to Southern Africa. They have resided in the area for over 30,000 years and survive in the harsh desert environment by living peacefully in harmony with nature.

Okavango Lodges

Okavango Safari Lodges

“The word ‘San’ was believed to mean ‘wild people who cannot farm’. Historically the San did not have a word for themselves. Today they call themselves ‘Ncoakhoe’ meaning ‘red people’. The San were hunter gatherers roaming to find food and water. There are about 55,000 San left in the world and sixty percent of them live in Botswana. The others live in Namibia and northern South Africa where their interesting cave paintings are abundant.”

Elephant

Delta Elephant

After arriving in Ghanzi, San Bushmen took us hiking in the Kalahari. They shared ancient survival methods and secrets of how insects, animals, and humans live in the desert. Later that night they danced for us by campfire in the moonlight.

Glowing Delta Tree

Glowing Delta Tree

The Okavango Delta

The next morning we headed for Maun – the third largest city in Botswana. Maun is known as the gateway to the Okavango Delta. The name comes from the San word “maung”, which translates “the place of short reeds”. After an overnight in Maun we boarded small airplanes that flew low over the Delta to a safari camp – our home for the next two days.

Dung Beetle

Dung Beetle

To comply with luggage safety restrictions in the small airplanes we packed lightly leaving most of our electronics and valuables locked inside the safari truck. Our guides stayed behind and waited for us in Maun.

“Eons ago, the Okavango River flowed into a massive lake named Lake Makgadikgadi and now known as the Makgadikgadi Pans. Tectonic activity disturbed the river’s currents causing a backup that created the Okavango Delta. The Delta forms a complex network of over 5,000 sq. miles of waterways that sustain a large variety of flora and fauna.”

In the Delta

In the Delta

The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s best locations for game viewing. Massive numbers of large mammals live in and around the Delta where prey and predators are forced together in the floodplains. Lion, elephant, hyena, buffalo, hippo, and crocodile gather with antelope and smaller animals such as warthog, mongoose, baboon, and bush baby.

Delta Waterlily

Delta Waterlily

The Delta is also home to the endangered African Wild Dog with one of the richest pack densities in Africa. Many animals pass through the Delta during their summer migration. When the countryside dries up in winter, they cross the Delta again on the way home.

Delta Pond

Okavango Delta Pond

After lunch at our camp – Fallen Baobab – we enjoyed a game drive and nature walk with a local expert. Hundreds of bird species live in the Okavango Delta. Brilliantly colored Carmine Bee Eaters welcomed us by following the safari vehicle. Much to our delight, they flew low and close to the jeep “buzzing” us on both sides!

Under a Baobab

Under a Baobab

That afternoon guides took us on a boat trip in traditional dug-out canoes called Mekoros. Skillful African polers navigated through narrow fragrant waterways strewn with waterlilies. We lavished in the magnificent environment while taking photos and sharing the scenery with birds and hippos sunning in reed-covered water. It was an idyllic day. After dinner, we retired early and fell asleep to the sound of African night birds, elephants, and lions.

Fish Eagles

Fish Eagles

Early the next morning we departed on a long game drive viewing more of the Delta’s vegetation and plentiful populations of cheetah, elephant, warthog, buffalo, and wildebeest. We spotted a Silver-Backed Jackal and many beautiful large antelope including Reedbuck, Red Lechwe, Tsessebe, Sable, and my favorite – Greater Kudu.

Chobe Croc

Chobe Crocodile

Our guides educated us about flora / fauna, insects, and giraffe and pointed out some interesting details. Graceful giraffes have long tongues for reaching vegetation, thick saliva to help with digestion, 7 collar bones and large hearts to pump blood up their long necks.

Guinea Fowl

Guinea Fowl

Plants indigenous to the Delta include pungent turpentine grass and exotic trees like Baobab, Camel Thorn, Jackal Berry, Leadwood, and the funny-looking Sausage Tree. Dung Beetles are one of Africa’s most interesting insects. They play an important role in stabilizing the environment and fighting climate change.

Botswana Sky

Botswana Sky

That evening at camp we enjoyed a beautiful open-air candlelight dinner under bight stars and a full moon! Despite our best efforts, we finally succumbed to the nagging insects, moved away from the dining table, and spent the rest of the evening dancing and singing close to an insect-repelling campfire.

Fallen Baobab Camp Dinner

Fallen Baobab Camp Dinner

The next morning it was sad saying goodbye to our gracious hosts, and I wished we had more time to spend there. During a leisurely drive to the airstrip we bid farewell to the Delta and then boarded small airplanes for the flight back to Maun.

Fallen Baobab

Fallen Baobab Accommodation

Burglary and Fire

After landing in Maun we made our way through the airport to where our guides were waiting. Long faces alerted us that something was wrong. We listened carefully as they told us that vandals had burglarized the safari truck.

Baboon

Baboon

In the middle of the night burglars threw a metal garbage can through a truck window, cut locks off storage lockers, and made away with our stuff! While the burglary occurred, our guides were fast asleep in nearby lodges. The burglars stole laptop and tablet computers, cell phones, camera equipment, cash, clothes, food, drinks, and anything left in the truck.

Turpentine Grass

Turpentine Grass

My possessions were in a locker without a padlock. The lock I brought from the US was too big to fit the lockers, so I stored my belongings without locking them up. Shocked and bummed by the burglary, we left the airport and drove back to the lodge to prepare handwritten inventories of everything stored in the lockers.

Ghanzi Cattle

Ghanzi Cattle

The guides contacted the Maun Police soon after they discovered the burglary. The police advised them not to enter the truck, touch, or tamper with potential evidence until they arrived to investigate and take fingerprints. Six hours later, the police still had not appeared!

San Cave Painting

San Cave Painting

Disregarding their orders, we got into the truck, checked our lockers, and drove to the Maun Police Station. Many safari members lost everything including clothing and gear. Surprisingly the burglars did not bother unlocked compartments and my duffel bag and its contents were intact and unharmed.

Kudu

Greater Kudu

When we got to the police station the guides accompanied those with loses inside to file reports. After about an hour they came out with a policeman who dusted the lockers for fingerprints. The Maun Police’s casual attitude, incompetence, and lack of concern over the burglary were disturbing.

Botswana Map

Botswana Map

We thought the theft was an “inside job” with employees at the campground / lodge tipping off the burglars of our absence. It would have been difficult for outsiders to invade the guarded, fenced grounds with a security guard posted at the entrance.

Botswana Landscape

Botswana Landscape

Those who sustained losses spoke with safari company representatives in Cape Town. Some losses included hard-to-replace items like photo memory cards, jewelry, and gear. Surprisingly they were not going to receive compensation from the company’s insurance. Even more surprising, the truck was not equipped with an alarm!

Delta Rainbow

Delta Rainbow

A few hours later the police returned to us bringing some stolen and then discarded items they found in the bush near the perimeter of the lodge. Of course the electronics and cash were never recovered. It was a sour note after such a relaxing experience in the Okavango Delta.

Bush Baby

Bush Baby

The guides managed to get the broken window repaired and we continued to Botswana’s Nata Bird Sanctuary and Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, stopping along the way so people could replace essential items like toiletries and clothing. We would soon discover that our Botswana woes had not ended with the Maun burglary!

Riverboat Chobe River

Riverboat Chobe River

We spent the night at a lodge in an isolated area near Botswana’s salt pans. In the middle of the night a fire broke out in one of the buildings and we were rousted from our beds and evacuated to a safe area nearby. The grass thatched roof over the kitchen had burst into flames – a vivid, wild, unforgettable site against the black African sky!

Lone Delta Tree

Lone Delta Tree

As the flames grew higher the lodge owner feared the fire might spread to other buildings – all with thatched roofs. Fortunately it did not. The fire department arrived after the building had burned completely to the ground!

Delta Hippos

Delta Hippos

The cause of the fire was not determined but it seemed suspicious. One possibility was a thunderstorm with lightning that occurred earlier in the night. I heard someone in the crowd say the kitchen was known to have electrical problems….

Chobe National Park

Chobe Elephants

Chobe Elephants

Shaken but unscathed, the next morning we pulled together and made our way to the town of Kasane and Chobe National Park for a much-needed day relaxing on the Chobe River. The day began very hot but as evening approached it grew cool and moist on the river. Chobe riverbanks are abundant with game, and the region is known for enormous buffalo and elephant herds.

Silver-Backed Jackal

Silver-Backed Jackal

Chobe National Park is the second largest park in Botswana covering over 4,000 square miles. The Park forms part of a medley of lakes, islands, and floodplains created from the Kwando, Linyanti, and Chobe Rivers

Leadwood Tree

Leadwood Tree

During dry season Chobe elephants migrate and travel hundreds of miles from the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers in the north to the salt pans in the southeast. Kalahari elephants are known to have frail ivory and short tusks, possibly due to the lack of calcium in the desert soil.

Cheetah Tails

Cheetah Tails

“During 1932 over 9,000 square miles in the Chobe region were declared a non-hunting zone. Throughout the years the boundaries of the Park have been modified and settlers in the region relocated. In 1975 Chobe National Park was completely rid of human occupation. In 1980 and 1986 the boundaries were once again altered, growing the Park to its current size.”

Chobe Landscape

Chobe Landscape

Like migrating animals, the next morning we left Chobe headed for Zimbabwe, carrying memories of Botswana with us!!

Kenya – Nairobi, Maasai Mara, and Lake Nakuru

Ostrich

Male Ostriches Grazing in the Maasai Mara

The border crossing from Tanzania to Kenya really wasn’t so bad…meaning it could have been much worse! The safari’s previous border crossings passed without a hitch:

  1. South Africa – Namibia
  2. Namibia – Botswana
  3. Botswana – Zimbabwe
  4. Zimbabwe – Zambia
  5. Zambia – Malawi
  6. Malawi – Tanzania

Maybe it was time for a mini drama?

Mara Tree

Lone Savannah Tree

Before traveling to Kenya you apply for a visa using eVisa. After the Consulate approves your visa and you download it and print the details, including a receipt for payment. Thinking I followed the instructions and did everything required, I was horrified when we reached the border and the Kenyan immigration officer said my paperwork was incomplete. The officer frowned and disappeared behind the glass window with my passport in hand. After a silent scream, I waited pondering my fate.

Lake Nakuru Flamingoes

Lake Nakuru Flamingos

Everyone else had already passed through Kenyan immigration. They watched the situation play out eager to escape the scorching sun and get to our hotel in Nairobi. After waiting for 20 minutes in 100+ degree heat, the border agent returned, stamped a Kenyan visa in my passport, and shoved it through the glass opening. I heaved a sigh of relief, grabbed my passport, and walked away quickly!

Nairobi

As we worked our way through heavy Nairobi traffic our guide missed a turnoff and made an illegal U-turn to get back on the right road. The Kenyan police stopped him but he talked his way out of a fine. We arrived mid-afternoon and checked into our hotel – Sentrim Boulevard – near the heart of Nairobi.

Nairobi

Nairobi Skyline

Crane

Lake Nakuru Heron

Years ago Sentrim Boulevard was one of the posher hotels in Nairobi. It has long since been replaced by more modern accommodations. Even so, it was comfortable and the park-like grounds were lush and full of flowers and birds. After traveling for weeks in the African bush, a proper hotel and hot bath are always a treat.

Cheetah Hunting

Cheetah Hunting

There wasn’t much time to explore Nairobi since we were departing early the next morning for the Maasai Mara. Our guide cautioned us about night excursions into the city. Nairobi is dangerous – especially for tourists and pedestrians. After terrorist attacks at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Kenyan shopping malls people were on alert.

Hyenas

Hyenas Resting in the Road

A quiet dinner and retiring early in a comfortable bed were satisfying to me – no need for more adventure. Not bothered by terrorist reports, I planned to visit Nairobi on the way back to South Africa after the safari was over. There would be more time to explore the city then without being rushed.

Buffalo

Curious Buffalo

flat topped acacia

Flat-Topped Acacia Tree

Nairobi is known for its shopping and open air Maasai Market with beautiful hand-crafted African goods including jewelry, clothing, carvings, and incredible bead work. Maasai women sell beaded jewelry throughout the city. Fierce businesswomen they don’t take no for an answer. I bought several cuff bracelets in traditional red, yellow, and blue Maasai colors. They’re unique, cherished possessions.

Leopard with Kill

Leopard with Kill

Nairobi is one of Africa’s most politically and financially important cities. The word “Nairobi” comes from the Maasai phrase “Enkare Nyirobi” meaning “the place of cool waters”.

Lion Pride

Lion Pride

Nairobi was once a depot on the railway joining Uganda and the coastal metropolis of Mombasa – Kenya’s second largest city. In 1899 Nairobi become Kenya’s centre for British Colony tea, coffee, and sisal.

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Maasai Headdress

With a population of three million Nairobi is the largest city in East Africa. It’s home to the United Nations African Office and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).  The UNEP “sets the global environmental agenda, promotes sustainable environmental development within the UN system, and serves as an advocate for the global environment”.

Twin Lion Cubs

Twin Lion Cubs

Maasai Mara National Reserve

The following morning after an early breakfast we left Nairobi and headed for the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The “Mara” is a popular safari destination and one of Africa’s most spectacular game reserves.

Lake Nakuru

The Mara marks the beginning of the Great Migration of over a million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of Thomson’s gazelle and zebra pursued by ravenous predators. The area is well-known for an abundant lion population and the colorful Maasai People. On Maasai Mara roads animals always have the right-of-way.

Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru

The Maasai Mara covers 1,000 miles and is bound by the Serengeti Plain to the south, Siria slopes to the west, and Maasai ranches to the north and east. The landscape is mainly vast savannah grassland including rivers that come and go with the seasons and interesting trees like the flat-topped acacia.

Warthog

Illusive Warthog

Mt. Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa, is a main peak in the Maasai Mara. The legend goes that Mt. Kenya’s three peaks stand for the Kikuyu chief’s three sons selected by God to rule Kenya. The Kikuyu are the largest ethnic group in Kenya.

Mt. Kenya’s two main summits can only be reached by technical climbing. The mountain’s third highest peak, Point Lenana, is a popular trekking and hiking destination as is smaller Mt. Longonot, a stratovolcano that last erupted in the 1860s.

Maasai Men

Maasai Men

All animals in Africa’s Big Five – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo – live in the Maasai Mara. Hippos gather in the Talek River, a tributary of the Mara River. Black Rhino and Cheetah live in the Maasai reserve but in small numbers since both species are threatened. The reserve is home to over 450 species of birds including marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, cranes, herons, ostriches, and African Pygmy-Falcons.

African Savannah Sky

Our accommodation was in permanent tents in one of many Maasai Mara Camps. The camp perimeter wasn’t fenced so lions and other wild animals were free to come and go. Everyone was cautious – especially at night. While we were sleeping an impressive Maasai night guard sat by a fire outside our tents watching over the campsite. He was magnificent. Just the same, I made sure my tent door was securely fastened!

Wetlands Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru Wetlands

The next morning we enjoyed a game drive followed by a visit to a nearby Maasai village. Maasai villagers surrounded our group, draped us with colorful robes, and performed a welcome dance. I felt a little silly but it was fun interacting with the friendly Maasai who are known for their warm, outgoing personalities.

Kikuyu Men

Kikuyu Men

Maasai Cuff Bracelet

Maasai Cuff Bracelet

Part of the walk from our campsite to the Maasai kraal and houses was over a fresh field of cattle dung. Regrettably I was wearing a pair of flip-flops – maybe better than a coating of dung on my hiking boots….

Baboon

Baboon Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru National Park

Early the next day we departed the Maasai camp heading north to Lake Nakuru National Park and another afternoon of game driving. Nakuru means “dry or dusty place” in Maasai. The saline, alkaline lake was originally a bird sanctuary. It became a National Park in 1968.

African Pygmy-Falcon

Lake Nakuru is home to a variety of animals including the Big Four – lion, leopard, rhino, and buffalo. The Lake is a haven for endangered black and white rhino but there are no elephants in the park.

Resting Rhino

Resting Rhino

Nakuru is famous for enormous flocks of flamingos that gather by its shores to feed on the abundant algae in the Lake’s water. Trees and vegetation around the lake range from grasslands to dense forests, including very rare tarchonanthus bushlands and euphorbia forests – neither of which I had ever heard of before….

With Maasai

Safari Group with Maasai

Tomorrow we leave Kenya and make our way to Uganda’s second largest city – Jinja. Jinja is where the Nile River flows from Lake Victoria through Egypt into the Mediterranean Sea.