I like birds as much as the next person, but I am not a Birder with a capital B. In fact, I’ve been known to make fun of Birders occasionally. (Sorry, Birder friends. You make me laugh sometimes.) I did, however, catch a hint of birding fever on my recent Kruger trip, and came away with more bird pictures than I know what to do with. The lilac-breasted roller, one of the most common birds in the Kruger and also one of the most beautiful. So I’ve decided to throw them all into a blog post. If you’re a serious South African Birder, you won’t find any dramatic surprises here. Most of the birds pictured are common in the Kruger. But I think you’ll find the photos pleasing all the same. 15 Birds of the Kruger I’ll start with the birds we saw most often and work my way up to the rarer sightings. 1) Glossy starling A glossy starling waits patiently for crumbs at the table outside our chalet. Glossy starlings, or greater blue-eared starlings, are all over the Kruger, especially in the rest camps where they are prolific scavengers of human food. They’re very naughty and also ridiculously beautiful. […]
Do you live in Johannesburg? Do you have a garden, or know someone who does? Do you have R400 to spend? If so, then you need this: Hadeda tire planter from Yada Yada in Melville. If you don’t live in Joburg and don’t know what a hadeda is, read here. But these hadedas are not easily transportable, so unless you already live in Joburg (or at least in South Africa) then you probably can’t have one. If you do live in Joburg, then make your way to Melville’s 7th Street and buy a hadeda. They’re made of recycled materials, they have a built-in irrigation system, and they can double as large hand-bags. Ray photobombs Hadeda. Ray carried Hadeda as a handbag for a while after we bought her. Hadeda in another position at Yada Yada. We did a whole photoshoot with her. If you’re not into hadedas (some people aren’t, although I’ve never understood those people) then you can also buy an owl. Best of all, Hadeda looks fabulous in our garden (as I’m sure she would in every South African garden) and she makes me happy every time I look at her, which is at least 50 times a day. The red petunias match Hadeda’s beak. […]
On August 8, 2010, I published my first blog post from South Africa. The first photo in that post was a picture of a hadeda in my back yard. A hadeda at the Lucky 5 Star — my first South African blog photo. I’ve mentioned hadedas in passing over the years but I’ve never devoted a blog post to them. This is inexcusable, I now realize. The hadeda is more than a bird; it’s a Joburg icon. If you live in Joburg — whether it be in Melville or Mondeor, Sandton or Soweto — you probably awaken to hadedas every single morning of your life. You might love them, you might hate them, or you might have become immune to them. But the hadeda is always hovering on the edge of your subconscious, standing silently a few feet away or scaring the crap out of you as it launches into the air with a deafening screech. The hadeda (pronounced HAH-dee-dah, scientific name Bostrychia hagedash) is a large ibis, recognizable by its long beak and clumsy demeanor. Hadedas live all over sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in grasslands. But they have adapted exceptionally well to cities and especially to Joburg. I met this hadeda earlier in the week at the Rietfontein Nature Reserve […]
Pretoria, which sits just north of Joburg, is smaller and tamer than its neighbor to the south. Some Joburgers consider Pretoria to be a boring backwater, while many Pretorians see Joburg as a crowded, wild place that’s best avoided. (I grew up near Baltimore, Washington D.C.’s northern neighbor. A similar rivalry exists between those two cities.) Pretoria City Hall, one of many historic buildings in Pretoria. Pretoria is the capital of South Africa. Well, sort of. The country actually has three capitals: Pretoria, where the president is; Cape Town, where the Parliament is; and Bloemfontein, where the courts are. Sort of. South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, actually sits in Joburg. But Joburg isn’t one of the capitals. Go figure.
Welcome to the final blog post about my hike through the Kruger Park’s Pafuri Triangle: the mineral installment. Most of the facts in this post were gleaned from Brian, our Pafuri wilderness guide, and Wikipedia. If you’ve read parts 1 and 2 of this series, you know that the Pafuri Triangle is chock-full of majestic African wildlife and awe-inspiring trees. But Pafuri also has rocks. And water. And an amazing geological and archaeological history. Geology and archaeology aren’t my specialties, but this post is an excuse to show you some of my favorite pics from the trip that don’t feature animals or plants. Water is a mineral, right? Either way, I really like this picture.
A big thank you to travelgurus.co.za and Wilderness Adventures for making this blog post possible. Last weekend I visited Kruger National Park, the largest park in South Africa. This wasn’t just any old Kruger safari, either. I went to the remotest and most beautiful section of the park — the Pafuri Triangle. A view of the Limpopo River, just before my plane landed at Pafuri Camp. The Pafuri Triangle is in the far northern corner of the Kruger Park, wedged between the Limpopo and Luvuvu Rivers and the borders of Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
A few months ago, I promised to write periodic posts about Melville guesthouses, restaurants, and shops. I’ve strayed from that commitment — the majority of my posts these days are about the Joburg city centre or more far-flung places outside of town. So today I’m getting back to my roots. Melville is one of Joburg’s wackiest neighborhoods; it straddles a divide between tree-lined suburbia and urban grittiness. Melville is constantly changing — there are always quirky new places to visit, along with well-loved old standbys. I’m not a Melville tourist, but I’ve just spent a few days wandering around pretending I am. Here is a recommended itinerary for a one-day visit to the place I call home in Jozi.
When Joe was a little boy growing up in Johannesburg, his favorite place to eat was a restaurant downtown on Commissioner Street, called the Golden Dragon. At least he thinks that’s what it was called. There’s no way to confirm it now because that restaurant, like much of Joburg’s “Old Chinatown,” is long gone. Run-down buildings on the outskirts of Old Chinatown, which is adjacent to the trendy inner city neighborhood of Newtown.
Warning: This post includes disturbing images. No joke. Two friends of mine from D.C., Tricia and Ingrid, paid me a visit this week. I wanted to take them somewhere interesting in downtown Jozi, and Marie-Lais from the Melville Visitors Centre recommended the Faraday Muti Market. Marie-Lais’ friend, Jeaniene Dekker, is an artist who leads informal tours of the market. (Check out Jeaniene’s website.) I took Marie-Lais’ advice and scheduled a tour with Jeaniene. To call the muti market “interesting” is the understatement of the century.
I’m leaving town for a few days and probably won’t have internet access. Before I go, I want to share a few recent pictures from the garden at the Lucky 5 Star. Before moving to South Africa, the only aloes I’d ever seen were aloe vera plants — droopy house plants that people keep around for when they burn themselves. Here there are hundreds of different kinds of aloes, ranging from small, cabbage-sized plants to massive trees. I’ve also recently learned that aloes grow tall, flaming orange blooms in early winter.
First, a few words of thanks: Thanks to WordPress for “Freshly Pressing” me for the second time in three months. Wow. It was great to get a second chance because this time I actually understood and appreciated what was happening when my inbox started to overflow. Thanks to everyone who read, commented on, liked, and subscribed to my blog. I’ve tried to respond to as many of you as possible but if I haven’t, rest assured that I’ve read and appreciated every comment. Thanks to my mom for coming to visit and giving me an excuse to do fun things that create fantastic blog material. Thanks to Joe, the man behind the blog, for improving my photography, making my photos look amazing, and teaching me so many interesting things about South Africa. Now, back to Cape Town. Mom and I did several fun things during our trip that I wasn’t able to cover in the first two posts, so I’ve compiled a few of my favorite photos to illustrate them: Riding the Hop On Hop Off Cape Town Sightseeing Bus. For someone who thought she disliked group tours, I certainly did a lot of them last weekend. We wanted to visit Kirstenbosch National […]