We went to Bontebok National park on Sunday. On the way down to swim in the Breede River we noticed a bird we didn’t recognise. Out came the birding books and the camera as this tiny, sparrow looking bird dodged in and out of the road margins.
The only bird that matched the description, had one small issue. It was completely out of range. The southern most border of its range was north of Ceres in the Tankwa Karoo. Diagnostic feature? Solid black under wings.
An SUV thundered past and the bird took flight.
Black under wings A communal “Oh!”
We get home and consult the experts and they agree that what we saw was a vagrant Black Eared Sparrow Lark.
Pardon the awful picture but seeing as how the picture is now on the Rare Birds webpage with my name attached it cannot be all that bad.
The west coast of South Africa is a dry semi-desert region with an average rainfall of 280 mm (12″). For most of the years the vegetation is low scrub and thorn bushes with patches of dry dusty ground. In August after the winter rains things change dramatically. The flower come out in raging colours. This display lasts three months and by the end of October the flowers are gone and the dry dusty veld is left. We drove up to Langebaan in mid August after good winter rains and enjoyed the glory of the flowers
The flowers spread across all the open ground and wild profusion. If you drive through quickly you only see the carpet of flowers. If however you stop and look, there is a wealth of beautiful flowers hidden within the showy flash of white, yellow and orange.
A visit to the Invasion Beaches and my tribute to the men and women who landed on those beaches. Many did not make it.
In 2019 we traveled to Europe. Included in the itinerary was a visit to the Normandy Landing beaches. Guided by a very competent guide, we saw and walked on Juno, Sword and Gold beaches. What I saw there stunned me and for the first time I understood the shear horror of those landings. I understood the blind courage required to leap out of the landing craft into the ice cold sea and wade ashore into a hail of bullets. Come with me on a personal trip to those beaches.
Phoenix Bridge: Allied Commandos were instructed to take this bridge at all costs. Three gliders landed nearby and then according to the tour guide three soldiers stormed across the bridge to silence a machine gun nest at the other end.
You can get an idea of just how long that bridge is. I asked the guide if the bridge was wider in those days but he said, “Narrower.” I cannot imagine storming a machine gun down a narrow alley of steel and hard road surface. I have no idea how they survived that crazy run.
The landing craft were mainly wood with the front door being steel and the soldiers packed together shoulder to shoulder inside. On an aside note, this is the landing craft that was used during the filming of “Saving Private Ryan”.
The tide was out when I was there so the run was longer than during the invasion but as you can see that there is no cover whatsoever.
The guns were positioned to fire directly along the beaches, not down them. There was thus no way of a soldier further down the beach from evading or stopping the the fire.
Once in about a decade the March Flowers or Maartblomme rise out of the harsh Tankwa Karoo soil and bring colour and life to the dry and harsh landscape. We were fortunate to make the 5 hour trip from Cape Town to Nieuwoudtville to see them.
The flowers seem to congregate in patches as you can see from this picture.
This is an old post. There have been changes since these pictures were taken and you can find updates scattered across this website.
The first picture shows the Jail house and how it sits on the plot. It actually occupies less than half of the actual plot. Everything shown on the right is also part of the property.
Note the afdak on the side of the house
The next picture is a close up of the actual house. The bathroom is on the extreme left (No windows). The enclosed verandah on the right with windows. A central alley (?) into the front of the house separates the bathroom and verandah. Common access is through the side door under the afdak.
The most commonly used door is the side door and it leads directly into the main living room which was the court house.
This picture was taken with my back to the enclosed verandah (facing east) and shows the common access door on the right, the kitchen and the access to the two bedrooms at left.
The court house or common living area as it is now runs from the enclosed verandah the whole length of the house to the back wall. There are no back windows. The next picture is of the living room facing west.
The verdandah is fairly typical of verandahs built in the fifties and is shown in the next picture. The living room is now behind me.
Turning your back to the the Verandah entrance, the kitchen area, really only a sink and a wall unit isnext to the door way into the first bedroom.
The first bedroom is a really small room and was at one stage a bathroom. Toilet and wash hand basin marks are readily seen.
It isn’t really bent like this. I just didn’t think of stitching it until long after the pictures were taken.
The main bedroom is off this smaller bedroom
In this next picture you can see the door into the bathroom from the main bedroom.
and leads directly into the bathroom and toilet.
And a fairly large bathroom it is compared with modern arrangements.
The front entrance is seldom used and is a bit of a conundrum. The first picture is facing inwards.
The next picture is facing outwards.
I want to close in this large area and make it part of the flow. Problem is that there is a serious obstacle to the closing in of the entrance hall
Yes, you guessed right. This is an OLD, well used swallows nest and for the life of me I cannot bring myself to close it in and lose my yearly european tenants. Any good suggestions?
The joists are not hugely pretty, in fact they appear to be trees that have been debarked.
The following pictures show the inside of the roof.
And now ladies and gentlemen! The Cells!
The actual holding cells are to the back of the house and are shown in the next picture.
The keys are of awesome size as shown by the next picture.
The floor problem.
I cut a hole in the floor and did some diving. And made the sad discovery that the floor has borer beetle in it and needs treatment. Abri from Swellendam did the job.
This picture was taken under the floor and shows supports and beetle tracks.
The under-floor zone is terribly humid and you end up with the camera lens fogging up very quickly. This picture shows how you might look if you ventured under the floor to take pictures.
The beetle man, Abri told me that there was no underfloor ventilation. He was wrong, there is. Not hugely well planned or terribly effective, but there is ventilation none the less.
Point is although he was wrong, he was also right in a way. The lack of ventilation was in the living area. Most of my tenants had complained that the house was “mif”. I am not sure if there is a good english word for it, but it indicates a cold damp that causes fungus to grow on everything. The next picture is of the ceiling in the living room, away from the shower and bath room. The fungus is overwhelming as you can see.
The first time I slept there I left the windows closed (it was a very cold night) and all the windows were running with condensation. While scratching my head over Abri’s comment about the lack of ventilation, I suddenly realised he had provided the answer, purely by accident. You see there are no ventilation holes in the living space. None. I went round twice to check that I had not missed. As an experiment, I drilled holes all over the place more or less where the ventilation holes should be. See the picture.
I then went to bed with the windows closed. And (trumpet fanfare!!!) there was no condensation on the windows! Problem solved (at least I hope so!) Proper ventilators will be fitted asap to prevent the local bees from taking up residence. Interestingly enough you can feel the air flow through those small 16 mm holes. Inwards during the day when the outside temperature is highest and outwards when the inside temperature is highest. Isn’t science wonderfull?
17th September, 2005. Went back to see Abri’s handiwork. The floors look great. I haven’t coated the floors yet as the ceiling needs painting and I am not gonna drip on newly varnished floors! You can still see the poison that he used to nuke the borer beetles. Hopefully that is the last of that topic. (It wasn’t. See here and here)
The air in the house was much better, warmer, fresher. Those holes really worked a treat! Now I need to go back and fit proper ventilation grids.
Ok, so now some years later Amanda has joined me in my activities and added some class to my endeavors and look how things have improved…..
We converted the front verandah into a kitchen – temporary but still it works.
The bedroom adjacent to the bathroom is furnished and looks like this.
The main bedroom – east end of the house now looks like this.
The sitting room now has furniture and decorations.