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Friday, 21 July 2017

New Year and hunting for new friends

A couple of years ago a friend and I booked ourselves into Mokala National Park for a week of slow-moving relaxation where we could simply cruise the park and enjoy what nature had to offer. This week happened to fall over New Year's. Ilze had some friends in the vicinity and when they heard that where we were, we were promptly invited to come spend New Year's Eve with them. So it came that on the last day of the year, I set off with Ilze to forge a new friendship. Our destination? A hunting lodge in the greater Kimberley area, near Jan Kempdorp.

Becoming a fisherman's friend

When we set off, Ilze had told me that we would be enjoying a girly day at Louise's spa. I had no objections. However, things turned out quite differently than expected as I learned as soon as we arrived at the lodge. After introductions were made, Johan, Louise's husband, told us that everything was packed and ready to go for a day of fishing at the nearby dam. Now let me first introduce you to Johan, so you can understand what this meant. Johan, who had sadly passed away since, was an outfitter who accompanied overseas hunters on hunting and fishing excursions across Southern Africa. In the off seasons, he caught game. So, being packed and ready for a day of fishing meant that everything had been taken care of and we were in good hands for the day. Of course, having only just been introduced to Johan and Louise I had no way of knowing this and I was highly skeptical. I had visions of previous fishing excursions with less organized, or rather, more ill-equipped fishermen. I would simply have to bite the bullet and make the most of it.

Ready for action!

My fears were unfounded. When Johan said that everything had been taken care of, he truly meant it. I am not into fishing, but do not mind spending the day next to the water. Any water. I love being near water. So, while everyone else was setting up and getting their lines in the water, I was happily exploring the area with my camera in tow. I am a very happy chappy when I am outside snapping pictures and I had a great time next to the dam.

Majestic beauty

Towards the afternoon Johan called us over to get in the boat he had brought along. For the next hour or so we cruised the vast dam from side to side and it was a sheer thrill to feel the wind in my hair. What made it even more spectacular were the fish. They seemed to enjoy the presence of the speeding boat and raced alongside or jumped over the tumultuous waters in its wake. I could not help laughing out loud at their antics. I felt wholly and completely blessed to have such an unexpected treat bestowed on me without even planning it.

Off the beaten track

Back at the lodge, everyone was very busy putting the tackle away and getting things ready for the New Year's braai that evening. A couple of farmers from the vicinity would be joining us and it would prove to be a fun evening. In the meantime, as I was 'the guest', I was not put to work and were left to roam the grounds freely. I once again set off to do just that... with my camera around my neck.

Coming prepared to fish!

This was when I came upon the lodge's dining room. It was a huge area and it was filled with stuffed hunting trophies. Now, this is not something I am into at all, but after recovering from my initial shock, the artist in me recognized the value of this find. Here I was presented with the rare opportunity of photographing each of the wide variety of animals from every possible angle my heart could desire. I would have a literal treasure trove of reference material to sketch and paint from in future. To say that I made good use of the opportunity could be considered the understatement of the year! I snapped away unhindered as everyone hustled and bustled around me.

A creature I would have preferred not to cross paths with - a Red Roman Ant!

At some stage during the day, I remember that us three women, Louis, Ilze and myself, took a trip in one of the 4x4's across the farm. It was a good thing we took this vehicle too, as the terrain was quite rough in some places and we certainly did not stick to the roads. This was a hunting and breeding farm. Animals were kept to be sold off, or hunted by trophy hunters. As for, who had no interest in either of these activities, it was a sheer delight to be able to watch the animals grazing freely in their natural habitat. The added bonus to being allowed on a farm like this, is that you stand a good chance of encountering some of the more rare species. What a privilege!

The spa at the lodge

Later that evening, as things had settled down a bit and people were relaxing with drinks in hand, I asked about the philosophy of hunting and the future of the hunting industry against the backdrop of a conservation-minded generation. This was when I learned that your big game hunters are some of the most avid wildlife conservationists around. There are only very limited areas left for wild animals to roam freely, if you take all game farms and reserves into consideration. It is absolutely essential to the survival of these animals that their numbers should be controlled. As size matters in the hunting industry, breeding programmes have been introduced to ensure that the strongest of the species survive, with breeding regulated to guard against in-breeding and other pitfalls. Also, the money generated from overseas hunters, who spend small fortunes on these hunting trips, allow job creation and security to a myriad of people across a vast range of related occupations. It was a true eye opener to sit down and listen to someone talk with so much passion about the plight of wildlife conservation, especially with this man being a professional hunter. I was reminded once again that too often in life we make judgments about things and people without bothering to gather the facts first.

Hand-rearing an orphaned Duiker lamb

We spent the night at the lodge and returned to our vacation in Mokala the next day, but this unplanned and unexpected visit was an enriching one that brought me much needed new insight. Also, it was the start of what would turn out to be a truly great friendship with Louise.

And this is me, doing what I do best - discovering new ideas, people and places!

Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy my books here:
You can purchase Designs By Miekie 1 here.
Jy kan Kom Ons Teken en Verf Tuinstories hier koop.
Jy kan Kom Ons Kleur Tuinstories In hier koop.
Jy kan Tuinstories hier koop.
You can follow Miekie's daily Bible Study blog, Bybel Legkaart, here in English & Afrikaans.
You may prefer to follow the traveling blog, A Pretty Tourist.
For more crafty ideas and great product reviews, visit A Pretty Talent on Facebook.
If you are in a literary mood, follow Miekie's musings, stories and poetry on A Pretty Author - Miekie.
Remember to keep nurturing your TALENT for making life PRETTY.
You can subscribe to any of these blogs and receive regular updates by email. Simply register your email address at the top of the applicable blog.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

A weekend in the Green Kalahari: between Augrabies and Blouputs

A couple of years ago, a friend called me up to find out if I wanted to take a road trip down to Augrabies with her for the weekend. Who me! Of course yes! It turned out that she had an interview for work there on the Saturday morning and had decided to make a weekend of it. I was very happy to serve as traveling companion on this trip. We booked ourselves into an hotel in Augrabies for two nights and set off on the Friday afternoon.

The quiver trees at the hotel

Our route was as follows: Potchefstroom - Klerksdorp - Vryburg - Kuruman - Khatu - Olifantshoek - Upington - Kanoneiland - Kakamas - Augrabies. Somehow, when you say these names out loud in succession, it sounds like poetry, doesn't it?

The fertile land on the banks of the Orange River

The interview was on one of the large farms in the area and they readily agreed to make a guide available to us for the afternoon. This guide took the form of the wife of one of the farm managers. She took her time to take us around the farm, and we spent the afternoon learning lots about farming in the arid land surrounding Augrabies, especially in the Blouputs area. All of the farmland in the areas lay on the banks of the Orange River and had to be watered with water from this river. The result is some of the most spectacular fruit that this country has to offer. Most of the table grapes consumed in South Africa comes from here and there as also citrus orchards in the area. Aside from these, the area is also responsible for a large production of dates and olives. This inevitably means that there are more than one harvesting season during the year and it makes for very intensive farming.

The arid land a short ways off from the river

The larger farm has been subdivided into smaller farms and each of these has a farmer appointed to take care of his or her piece of land. They, in turn, report to a farm manager (such as the one our guide was married to), who in turn reported to the owners. There were also incentives for the farm workers to become co-owners through means of shares and land set aside specifically for this purpose.

The lush vineyards where a lot of South Africa's table grapes are produced

It was obvious that had it not been for the farms, the area would not be economically viable. The farms are the main source of employment and the other businesses owe their existence to the fact that people earn money they spend in town, on the farms.

Blouputs, a place I only know exists because my friend had an interview here

Another aspect of the social arrangements in the area, concerned schools. The farmers had collectively come together to build small schools for the local children. As the area is so vast and the inhabitants spread out over so large an area, it does not make sense to travel the vast distances to the government schools in town. Farm schools were then built and teachers employed by the farmers to ensure that the children from the farming community would have equal opportunities for education. That said, the option of school hostels also exist with the government schools.

The Augrabies waterfall after a dry season 

The Augrabies waterfall after a dry season 

Aside from our guide, who hails from Namibia originally, we also fell into a lengthy conversation with a 'daughter of the town' who was born and bred in Kakamas.  Where our guide had very little positive to say about the services in the area, this woman assured us that basically every human need could be met in the immediate vicinity. Our guide would have us driving all the way to Upington for medical emergencies, and grocery shopping. This lady on the other hand, assured us that the doctors, the vets, the optometrists, the grocers and every other amenity was up to standard and would more than meet our needs. I guess one would have to live there to find out that both versions held truths as well as exaggerations.

The scenes that make road trips worth taking

My friend, who was considering moving to the area, was very concerned about snakes. Having grown up in the city, she had never come across a snake in the field before, a fact that had me amazed. Again, our guide had tales of terror with which to regale us. She's had to come to the rescue of her own dear dogs on more than one occasion and pulled some of them through by their teeth. It was frightening to hear and we parted ways with her with my friend convinced that she would not be able to set foot outside her house without crossing paths with a snake. I grew up on a farm and knew a little better, but was dismissed as I did not know the area. I then opted to ask our waitress back at the restaurant in the hotel. It turned out that she too had been born and bred in the area. She also did not own a vehicle and went on foot most of the time. When asked how often she had come across a snake, she said she had never, but knew of people who had and therefore it would be fair to say that there were snakes in the area. Enough said.

Familiar Karoo beacons

The weekend wasn't all work and no play. We also went to the Augrabies waterfall and stood in awe and amazement at the grandeur and beauty, even though it had been a very dry season with very little rainfall to feed the falls.

Traveling Karoo style

What continues to impress me most in these dry areas, are the quiver trees (kokerbome), and I spent the Saturday morning sketching a very pretty specimen right there in the garden of the hotel. But it is not only the quiver trees that sings the beauty of the land. Every grain of sand, every struggling succulent and every rock testifies to life that persists even in the harshest of climates. And that is before I even get to the silence that threatens to envelop you. A truly majestic and beautiful spot on earth that everyone must make a point of visiting at some stage.

Quiver Tree by Miekie

Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy my books here:
You can purchase Designs By Miekie 1 here.
Jy kan Kom Ons Teken en Verf Tuinstories hier koop.
Jy kan Kom Ons Kleur Tuinstories In hier koop.
Jy kan Tuinstories hier koop.
You can follow Miekie's daily Bible Study blog, Bybel Legkaart, here in English & Afrikaans.
You may prefer to follow the traveling blog, A Pretty Tourist.
For more crafty ideas and great product reviews, visit A Pretty Talent on Facebook.
If you are in a literary mood, follow Miekie's musings, stories and poetry on A Pretty Author - Miekie.
Remember to keep nurturing your TALENT for making life PRETTY.
You can subscribe to any of these blogs and receive regular updates by email. Simply register your email address at the top of the applicable blog.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

It's a bug's life! - the Botswana underbelly

I guess it is safe to say that I have always been fascinated by bugs and insects. Not to the same degree as some are, I am sure. I haven't bothered with identifying them, or joining entomology clubs, or going on bug-hunting outings and trips, though I know quite a few people who do just that. No, my interest is more cursory. I am fascinated by the vast scope of insects that exist. I love their colours, textures, the way the move, their shapes, sizes, etc. For this reason you would often find me surrounded by nieces, nephews and other children, with our noses close to the ground, in the garden, searching out interesting life forms. It was precisely this activity that inspired my first children's book, Tuinstories. Deciding to do the illustrations for the book myself, finally gave sense to all those hours studying the critters of the garden.


Whenever I travel in places that have long stretches of dirt roads, open fields and few people, I make use of every possible opportunity to take long hikes. My camera would inevitably travel along and I will happily snap every single thing I come across, including bugs. For today's blog, I do not have much to say, but I wanted to share some of these pictures with you, for I found Botswana's insect life fascinating. Not only did the insects, in general, appear larger than what I was used to at home, but they also seemed more colourful. Aside from the butterflies which, though there were plenty of them, appeared much more muted and smaller than at home.




I was especially fascinated by the dung beetles and took a few videos as well.




The grasshoppers appeared to be the biggest and brightest of the insects.



When deciding to illustrate my book, I was left with a number of line drawings and captured these in a coloring book which is also available on the market, titled Kom Kleur Tuinstories In.



video



video

It was just as important to me to give my young readers the chance to learn to draw and paint the characters in the book themselves. With this in mind, I developed an activity book to accompany the storybook, called Kom Ons Teken En Verf Tuinstories.






Having seen all of the pretty grasshoppers, I was rather saddened that one of the characters in the book wasn't a grasshopper. The cricket came close though.



A very funny encounter with a Red Roman Spider occurred to me one night in Botswana. I recounted the tale of this meeting in a previous blog, titles The Roman Invasion. Click on the link if you wish to have a good laugh.


Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy my books here:
You can purchase Designs By Miekie 1 here.
Jy kan Kom Ons Teken en Verf Tuinstories hier koop.
Jy kan Kom Ons Kleur Tuinstories In hier koop.
Jy kan Tuinstories hier koop.
You can follow Miekie's daily Bible Study blog, Bybel Legkaart, here in English & Afrikaans.
You may prefer to follow the traveling blog, A Pretty Tourist.
For more crafty ideas and great product reviews, visit A Pretty Talent on Facebook.
If you are in a literary mood, follow Miekie's musings, stories and poetry on A Pretty Author - Miekie.
Remember to keep nurturing your TALENT for making life PRETTY.
You can subscribe to any of these blogs and receive regular updates by email. Simply register your email address at the top of the applicable blog.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Voiceless cities


Voiceless cities

I have visited great cities in this world
and found them speechless, silent,
hoarse, with voiceless laryngitis
I strained my ear, but could not hear them.
Dubai opened its mouth and gurgled strange noises at me
through a gaping hole of opulence and luxury.
Amsterdam confused me with too many streets,
too many faces, and too few fixed opinions.
Glasgow sputtered about old and new
and lost its voice in compromise.
London, Paris, Jo’burg, stared at me with silence,
with no introduction and no identity.
It was only when I stood in the open field of the Karoo,
with my toes curled into its warm sand,
with endless emptiness, stretching before and above,
that I heard a clear and distinct voice calling loudly,
welcoming me home and stretching its embrace wide.
My soul responded with a resonating ‘yes!’ and I was at peace.

An original poem by Miekie (Marietjie Uys).
'n Oorspronklike gedig deur Miekie (Marietjie Uys).

Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy my books here:
You can purchase Designs By Miekie 1 here.
Jy kan Kom Ons Teken en Verf Tuinstories hier koop.
Jy kan Kom Ons Kleur Tuinstories In hier koop.
Jy kan Tuinstories hier koop.
You can follow Miekie's daily Bible Study blog, Bybel Legkaart, here in English & Afrikaans.
You may prefer to follow the traveling blog, A Pretty Tourist.
For more crafty ideas and great product reviews, visit A Pretty Talent on Facebook.
If you are in a literary mood, follow Miekie's musings, stories and poetry on A Pretty Author - Miekie.
Remember to keep nurturing your TALENT for making life PRETTY.
You can subscribe to any of these blogs and receive regular updates by email. Simply register your email address at the top of the applicable blog.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Tasting Botswana

I know food has become fashionable these days and many people would actually plan their journeys around the culinary experiences a country or destination have to offer. I have never gone that far, at least not yet, but I have always enjoyed learning about new foods and having new food experiences on my travels. It is therefore only fitting that I should share some of these with you.

Learning to make Brawn in Botswana

Perhaps I should start with the negatives and work my way through the to positives. I was astounded to arrive in Botswana and find that there were absolutely no potatoes to be found in the country. Botswana relies on South Africa for imports of many fresh products, among which is potatoes. Sadly, at the time of my visit there was an embargo on the importation of many food products from South Africa as the country's produce had become infected and Botswana was taking strict measures to keep the infestation outside its own borders. A word to the wise: check at the border control points to see what foods can or can not enter the country. Many a visitor had to leave their fresh produce at the gate and I can only imagine that this did not make for happy visitors!

Cottage Cheese from the dairy farm

Let's rather move on to the more positive taste experiences. As is so often the case in life, we can be surprised by very unlikely experiences if we open ourselves up to new adventures.  During my visit, a local couple returned from their honeymoon on the Western Cape. They had brought along a number of excellent South African wines and other interesting food stuffs. Among these were a bottle of Pumpkin Jam! I was a little skeptical at first, but very willing to give it a go. I can honestly tell you that it is among the best tasting jams I've ever had. Here is what I imagine one would do to make the jam. The pumpkin is peeled and cut into squares. It is then boiled in syrup (sugar and water) with cinnamon added. Perhaps it would be best to add a cinnamon stick as this would add the flavour without causing discoloration of the syrup. It is then bottled as any other jam. I fully intend to try this at some stage, and when I do, I will blog about it on A Pretty Talent where I've shared other recipes for making jams.

Homemade Butter

Another first for me was the introduction to abalone, which they had also brought along from their honeymoon. I was pleasantly surprised once more. Looking at it, I would have expected the abalone to be chewy, but it was not. Instead it was melt-in-the-mouth tender and juicy. I reminded very much of ocean fish, with a slight difference in texture. I will jump at the opportunity to have these again!

Traditional Magwinya

As the friends I were staying with, run a dairy farm, there was no shortage of milk, cream and other dairy products. But the farm also gave opportunity for other fresh produce. They had a lovely vegetable garden with fresh herbs and veggies to delight my heart. They had also butchered a cow that wasn't producing any milk and we had tender meat to feast on. Add to this, the sheep that Louise kept as a source of meat, our carnivorous needs were certainly met.

Homemade Drinking Yogurt

The added bonus to this, was that we stayed right across the street from the local butcher, Fred. Fred saw to it that the cow and sheep was slaughtered and then cut it into beautiful cuts, neatly vacuum-packed and labelled. I was impressed! But not half as impressed as I was, when nearing the end of my stay, he arrived with the biltong and dry wors he had made. Most impressive of all, and by far the best in my opinion, was the salami's Fred had made. I have yet to taste any better. Who could have known that a small settlement like Pitsane could deliver such quality? This was when I learned that Fred supplied cold meats and cuts to a number of local restaurants and butchers. I can understand why.

Labneh made from yogurt

But let me get back to the dairy products. Louise had taken to life on a dairy farm like an old hand. She had gone on a number of cheese making courses, learned to make yogurt and butter and was busy setting up a small side business to produce fresh dairy products. She was kind enough to allow me to photograph a number of the steps required to make some of these products and I have shared these with my readers in my blog called A Pretty Talent. I will provide links to these blogs, for those of you who might be interested in trying your own hand at making these:
Making Butter;
Making Cottage Cheese;
Making Yogurt;
Making Labneh;
Aside from the dairy products, Louise also showed me how to make old-fashioned brawn.

Louise also made us some lovely fudge

Now it is time I told you about a traditional Botswana food that is as common as bread. These are called Magwinya. The best way to describe a Magwinya is to compare it to vetkoek, except that it is sweeter to the taste, and as round as a ball. When I was first introduced to the Magwinya, I was immediately intrigued and expressed a wish to learn to make them. Sadly, nobody seemed to know. That is until I expressed my frustration to Blessing, who was cleaning the house. She was very surprised that I did not know how to make them. It turns out that when Blessing was around 13 years of age, she had gotten up very early every morning to make soup and magwinyas which she would sell on the building sites, before setting off for school. This is how she managed to pay for her books and stationery! Blessing was thrilled that she could teach me how to make something. Until that moment, she had not realized that she too possessed knowledge and skills that others craved for. Follow this link to see the lesson Louise and I got from Blessing in making Magwinyas.

Louise baked us some fine rusks and Blikkies, the dog, made sure to pitch up for his share every morning.

Food is truly another of those things which bring people together and when I travel, it is often my need to eat that will bring me in contact with some of the most interesting people one could hope to encounter. This is why I love to travel!

Little Miekie and I had great fun making Chocolate Cracklings

Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy my books here:
You can purchase Designs By Miekie 1 here.
Jy kan Kom Ons Teken en Verf Tuinstories hier koop.
Jy kan Kom Ons Kleur Tuinstories In hier koop.
Jy kan Tuinstories hier koop.
You can follow Miekie's daily Bible Study blog, Bybel Legkaart, here in English & Afrikaans.
You may prefer to follow the traveling blog, A Pretty Tourist.
For more crafty ideas and great product reviews, visit A Pretty Talent on Facebook.
If you are in a literary mood, follow Miekie's musings, stories and poetry on A Pretty Author - Miekie.
Remember to keep nurturing your TALENT for making life PRETTY.
You can subscribe to any of these blogs and receive regular updates by email. Simply register your email address at the top of the applicable blog.