Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spring is sprung

Winter is coming, well it is for the northern hemisphere. Here, in the southern hemisphere, spring is on it's way and is noticeable in the strangest of places. For the past few months I've been concerned with the feeding habits of my fish (Malawi Cichlids.) Usually they would come up to the top of the tank in anticipation of being fed which was quite a free for all, however through the winter months they were strangely reticent. I noticed it but didn't link this strange behavior to the seasons at all, I was just worried about them. Now the water temperature didn't drop over winter, I have a heater/thermostat in the tank that takes excellent care of that, the light hasn't changed because of the overhead lighting system. There didn't seem to be any reason for this strange reluctance on their part.That all change two weeks ago. Suddenly my fish seemed to perk up and started looking forward to breakfast and dinner again. I noticed it immediately but was at a bit of a loss as to why, happy but curious.
Last night, while feeding my now eager fish, I got to thinking about it. I have noticed that the temperatures have started to rise, I'm not using my electric blanket on high any more but now only use it to warm up the bed. This, of course, wouldn't affect the tank water temperature nor would the earlier light affect their perception to the degree that it has done so. During winter, even if I only fed them at ten in the morning, long after sunrise, they wouldn't change their new behavior pattern.
The only conclusion I can come to is that these fish in a stable environment are, in their genetic make-up affected by the seasonal changes that we have to deal with in our own unregulated environment. During winter, in the wild, food sources are generally slimmer than in summer or any of the other warmer months, that's why there are so many hatch-lings in spring. This makes sense to me, God works that way, less food available, less activity and less energy expenditure. It's a survival thing as far as I can tell.
 I would love to know what you think, is this possible or am I just being ridiculous?
Leave a comment.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Geoff's African Safari conclusion

Finally getting to write this post. Writing about an amazing trip can be quite difficult when there is so much other stuff going on, but you probably know that anyway. Yesterday I spent with Toni going through my photographs of Klaserie so I could publish them on my blog, we did some Photoshop work on them so I could highlight what I wanted to show you.
Each day there was a certain pattern to our game viewing, in the morning we would go for a game drive, usually to the dam, to see what showed itself. This was done in the Land Rover, an old open top vehicle with very bad shocks, but definitely worth it's weight in entertainment. We'd all pile in at about 7.30 and off we'd go. Morning game drives would not be very long because someone had to get back to the camp to cook breakfast, game at that time of the morning was also rather scarce so it wasn't too interesting.
On one morning we came across a herd of Buffaloes crossing the road right in front of us.These creatures are relatively peaceful and stood around not being too freaked by the "Tourists." I managed to get quite a few shots until we heard gun shots, That really spooked them. They didn't attack us but were a lot more skittish after the shots so we started the Landy and headed off back to camp for breakfast.
After breakfast we'd either head off to the River Lodge or just play games at the camp, things like table tennis or pool or cards. In the afternoon we'd go for another Game Drive to other dams and on other trails to see what was visible. Even though it's winter here and the bush is thin, spotting game along the way is rather difficult, to say the least. Please keep in mind that this area isn't the great Serengeti in Kenya but the Lowveld in South Africa. Here we don't have great open plains with herds of migrating Wildebeest and Springbok. Here the landscape is bushveld, scrub and trees as you would know it. In winter the undergrowth dies down and the areas between the trees becomes a little sparser allowing you to spot the game a little easier but just a little.
a pair of Steenbokkies
Apparently summer brings a completely different game viewing experience, you see nothing but huge grasses and bushes so dense it's not worth going then. Winter is definitely the time to visit. We, I must tell you, didn't have trackers with us, nor did we have bus loads of tourists. This is a private game reserve with very few other people around, much better.
The afternoon game drives tended to be a little longer than the morning ones extending till after sunset. We were able to see the nocturnal creatures coming out like African wild cats (which look remarkably like domestic cats but will tear you to shreds should you corner one,) Honey Badgers, the most fearsome of Africa's animals, even lions give them a wide berth because they are known for aggression. Heyhenas come out at night too as do Leopards and Lions. We never did see any Leopards nor lions, which is a pity, but we did see quite a few Heyhenas, wild cats, and even a pair of Honey Badgers.
Elephants, Giraffes, Antelope, Buffaloes,Warthogs and Baboons we saw lots of. When I say lots I don't mean huge herds but a number together at any sighting. I think one herd of elephants had about twenty members ranging from little babies to dad. The journey of giraffes we saw at the river lodge must have also comprised about twenty members also of all ages. We did see a few Stripey donkeys, which normally hang out with the Antelopes, but not that many and always on their own, which is unusual.

Evenings were spent under the most amazingly clear skies with so many stars visible. We would sit around the fire telling stories and laughing together. Lots of wine was available, and as far as I could tell, everyone enjoyed their whole experience. Bedtime was about 11 at might with a leisurely morning rising and coffee before setting out for the game drive.
I had a great time with a most amazing family.

Thanks to everyone and to my God.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Geoff's African Safari, the journey there.

sunrise on the road

I'm going to have to make this a five part series of posts about my trip to the Kruger National Park. There is a lot to write about and, as you probably know, I love being in the wild, especially where there are lots of animals.
We left the farm at 5.15 in the morning intending to stop along the way for breakfast. Taking pictures while traveling in dark conditions isn't exactly easy, long exposure with lots of jiggling and joggling, but I did manage to get a shot or two of the sunrise. I had every intention of writing about the whole trip so knew each step of the five hour journey was going to have to be photographed. Shelley was in the back of the car catching up on a few zzz's, she'd only gotten back to the farm after ten the previous evening having been to lectures after work. She's studying for her through Unisa, an internationally recognized distance learning institute here in South Africa
After 270 kilometers we arrived at a little town by the name of Dullstroom. This is where we decided to stop for a bite to eat and a little souvenir shopping.  You must understand that this is a major tourist rout from the Kruger Park and there are lots of quaint little restaurants and knickknack shops on either side of the main road. We first went into Dullstroom Art, Craft and Accommodation to see what there was of interest.
Shelley shopping
It was very cold that early in the morning and the shop interior was a bit too dark for decent photography. While Jason and Shelley browsed I went outside to take a few pictures of the town. Fascinating place actually, rich in history and antiquities. The buildings only stretch back a few hundred meters on either side along the road. It makes such a difference to see churches and Godliness in these small rural towns, definitely something Johannesburg is lacking, well in my opinion anyway.
There is a monument there that has been erected to thank God for answered pray during the Battle of Blood river that took place in the early 1800's. It reads, "The promise of 1838.The Voortrekkers, with the victory at Bloodriver.
Here we stand before the Holy God of heaven and earth to pledge a promise to him that if He will protect us and deliver our enemy over to us, we will this day and this date every year dedicate it to be a Sabbath and build a house for him.......... and so on and so on . I'm not going to translate the whole thing. They did build a house for God there.
After a bit of wandering around we eventually settled for a breakfast and coffee at Harries Pancakes a spot that both Shelley and Jason had visited before. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the dishes we ordered, we were all very hungry by that stage so, after a prayer to say thank you to God, we tucked straight in. We were there for about an hour and then hit the road again. We were still in the High Veld and since this is a Summer rainfall area everything was dry with brown grasses and leafless trees. Our journey necessitated traveling through quiet towns, a pass and then the J.G.Strijdom tunnel to the Low veld.
After a couple of toilet stops on the way we eventually arrived at the Klaserie Private nature Reserve turnoff six and a half hours later. It would still be another fifteen minutes of dust roads before we reached the camp site we would be staying at, Xihututu, an African name for Leadwood trees. The reason, in my opinion for the rather descriptive name, comes from the weight of this wood, it really is very heavy. There are a number of privately owned camps in Klaserie Nature reserve that have been joined to the Kruger National Park with all fences removed to facilitate the free movement of game throughout the area. The Pappin family, with whom we would be staying, own an area of about 300 square hectares with two lodge areas, the Bush camp, where we would be staying and the River lodge.
I, of course, jumped out of the car with my camera and got busy looking around and exploring the place as soon as we arrived. It was not quite what I had expected, way more "up market" and much better, a delight to behold. We were the first to arrive and unpacked the car in no time. A couple of hours later we got a call from the River Lodge to say there were animals at the river and we must come down there so off we went in the Land Rover. The two lodges are not far apart but it is definitely not safe to be on foot in the reserve.
A herd of more than twenty elephant.
A whole herd of Elephants was waiting for us with Cape Buffaloes and a number of other lesser buck such as Antelope and Rooibok, Impala in English. What a delight. This is still on the first day only hours after we ad arrived. A lot of people visit this reserve and go for days without seeing any elephant at all, we were indeed blessed. Shelley and I, as the "Nuwelinge" Newbies, were introduced to Ros, the owner of this little piece of paradise, and Granny.
Granny and Ros preparing snacks at the River Lodge.
Some of the other guests were arriving by this stage but we would only reach a full compliment of 16+1baby some time the next day.
We stayed at the River Lodge, which is built fairly high up in the curve of the river offering magnificent views of a long stretch of the river, for quite a few hours with the Elephants and buck hanging around too. This is when I became aware of the limitations of my 200 mm lens, definitely too small. Oh well, time to buy a bigger lens, maybe a 400 mm.
We were still going on a "Game Drive" that afternoon and I still had to make supper which would take a couple of hours at least.
This has already become a long blog post so I'm going to wrap it up for now. I'll post again tomorrow with lots of  pictures of animals.
I do realize that posting pictures of the animals here on my blog does pose a threat to them but since I'm not going to post GPS co-ordinates and so on, I'm hoping everyone will respect the severity of the danger to this little corner of paradise.
This particular section of the Kruger National Park is only open to invited guests and is not on the main Tourist route, no buses and not many vehicles.
Blessings to everyone from a very happy Geoff back on the farm in Mid Rand, Geoff.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Geoff's upcoming African Safari part 2

Some of the ingredients for dinner and brunch.
Preparation is, by now, well on the way for Wednesday's dinner and Thursday's brunch. There are a few things I didn't take into account, fresh drinking water and toilet paper for example. We are after all going into the bush, well not quite, we will be staying in a self catering lodge. I do know that the water available there is not drinkable but I'm sure there will be toilet paper, we'll see. We will have to buy some fire wood on the way because I've been told that it is scarce at the lodge, any we don't use must be left behind.
Not having baked Soda Bread before I decided to first try it at home. The recipe I'm using calls for Self Raising flour, Buttermilk and baking soda with a touch of salt. Because Buttermilk in this country comes in 500 ml containers I had to adjust the ingredient quantities to accommodate the increase in buttermilk.
Geoff's first attempt at Irish Soda Bread.
500 grams self raising flour.
500 ml Buttermilk.
3/4 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda.
3/4 tsp salt.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl making a hollow in middle.
Add Buttermilk and mix quickly.
Kneed on a flat surface for a SHORT while.
Place in oven for about 40 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool.
Serve warm with ample salted butter.
Jason came around a few minutes ago just to chat about what to expect and to find out if we were short of anything. I will be in charge of making dinner on Wednesday evening with Shelley's help, very easy meal to make in my opinion, while Jason and Shelley will be handling breakfast the next morning.
I was telling him just how excited I am to be going, he said that he too is very excited. He's been going there since he was two years old but hasn't been for a couple of years now. Just two days till we leave, YAY!
Apparently we will be going through a pass on the way there and a tunnel too, lots of photo opportunities.  I will stop and take as many photographs as possible along the rout and will be writing about the whole trip here on Geoff's Blog.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Geoff's African Safari.
Blessings to all from a very excited Geoff in Johannesburg South Africa.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Geoff's upcoming African Safari

I've been stuck in Johannesburg for nearly two years now and the wanderlust has set in big time but next week I'll be heading off to the Kruger National Park on the border of Mozambique. Very exciting.
 This game reserve is the biggest nature reserve in Africa and is in the north east of the country. Established at the end of the 1800's  by the, then president, of the Transvaal, Paul Kruger, it was intended for the protection of the wild life in the area, well done Paul. It's big, about 20 000 square kilometers, and is home to a huge variety of plants and animals including the Big Five, the African Lion, the African Elephant, the African Leopard, the Cape Buffalo and the Rhinoceros, all very scary animals that will kill you at the drop of a hat. I'll be careful to keep my hat on :).
As a child in about 1967 we came here as a family, I don't remember much about that trip but do remember going to Sabi Sabi. I must have been about twelve at the time, long, long ago. This time I'll be going to a private game lodge, Xikukutu Game Lodge owned by Shelley's boyfriend's family in the Klaserie private Game reserve which is part of the Kruger Park. We won't be staying in a tented camp but in bungalows for five days and four nights.  It is a self catering camp so we all have certain meals to prepare and serve, Shelley, Jason and myself will be preparing dinner on Wednesday evening, our first night there. Mexican Soup with Soda bread baked on the fire
 served with a nice South African Sauvignon Blank to wash it down and possibly a medium cream sherry to round off the evening. We will also be making breakfast on Thursday morning, scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes served with freshly squeezed orange juice and sparkling wing. Apparently the rest of those coming ( ten of us on Wednesday and another four on Thursday) are extremely competitive so we will be setting the tone for the rest of the stay. Yes I can cook and entertain quite well when the situation demands. We have to take all the ingredients with us so I'm in for a shopping spree this coming week.
I will be taking lots of photographs of the preparation and presentation as well as everyone enjoying their time together to post here when I'm ready but for now I've had to get images from the net. Archibald and Minnie, my dogs, will be staying with my sister Toni for the weekend while Tiny, Olive and my fish will be looked after by one of my neighbors daughters, they will be fine I'm sure.
Shelley, Jason and I will leave here at about 5 am on Wednesday morning and take a leisurely drive of about 6 hours, stopping on the way  for breakfast in one of the small towns and also to take photographs along the way. I must tell you that this has come at exactly the right time, I really need this. Thank you Lord, you always know what I need and when to bring it about.
Writing this post has been a tremendous blessing for me and I look forward to telling you all about what it's been llike when I eventually do get back.
Blessings in the name of Jesus to all of you, Geoff.

Friday, July 17, 2015

God, his son Jesus and me, the way I see things.

John 6 verse 44 States "No man can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise him up on the last day."
Hello Adrian, remember me? We met at the Edenvale licencing department earlier today where I said that no man could come to Jesus unless sent by God the father. You looked rather askance at me when I said that, as if you didn't recognize the reference, well there you have it. 
As I stated, I follow what Jesus said to us, not anyone else. There are so many scriptures preached by the church from the teachings of Paul but Paul was just a man, not the Messiah. Jesus on the other hand is the son of God and all authority to judge and rescue has been put into his hands. The way I see it is like this; A son is born to you and your wife and over the years you come to not just love this amazing son but to have absolute trust in him too. You establish a business and teach him the right way to run it so that it will continue in the vein you envisaged when you set it up. One day he gets married and as a wedding gift to him you hand all authority over the business to him, you know with all your heart that this business, in his hands, will do exceedingly well. The business is still yours but you take a back seat to allow him to make all the decisions required while still having your complete backing and authority. He hires and fires, decides where to invest and how to market it but with your money, your resources, your strength and your contacts. Sort of like a manager but still the boss's son. 
People you meet along the way you send to your son for him to decide whether he can utilize them to further the aims of your business or not. If they listen to him and do what he says then they will prosper, if not, goodbye. You get where I'm coming from?
Jesus, throughout all his ministries, talked of the Father and gave all glory to Him. He didn't claim that glory for himself. His words "I am the way, the truth and the light' were with reference to the father's kingdom. You want to enter the kingdom of God? Follow me, I'm going there, I'll show you the way. Forget what anyone else tells you, they are deceiving themselves and you into falling into the sewers, it's not the way. That way leads to darkness and filth. (Think for a moment just how dark and disgusting it is in the sewers where all the excrement of mankind ends up.)
The kingdom of God doesn't just have to do with where you will land up when you die, it exists right now, right here where you are today. In John 14 verse 1 and 2 Jesus tells his disciples to "Set your troubled hearts at rest. Trust in God always; trust also in me." In verse 14 he tells them "If you ask anything in my name I will do it." What an amazing promise. 
I hope this hasn't caused you too much stress and will also assure that I personally can attest to all that I've written here. Give it a try, ask for something in Jesus's name and see if it isn't true, you will be amazed.
Blessings from Geoff.
All scriptures referenced from The New English Bible. Oxford University Press 1972.