November 2011

African Animals – Days at Phinda

Feature Image:

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Loggerhead Sea Turtle Laying Eggs

Highlights:

Following a heartfelt departure from Pachamama’s crew and family on November 7th Fairwell DinnerDominique and I headed down to Umhlanga Rocks  and the Beverly Hills Hotel for a couple of nights to recuperate, reconnoiter a bit as well as figure out what was next, did we need to make a dash to the USA, CH, SG or could we stay in ZA a bit longer….? 

Fortunately, we were able to stay and then thanks to my cousin David’s and friend Mark’s guidance decided on a heading up to Phinda Private Game Reserve run by &Beyond (previously Conservation Corps. Africa or CC Africa) for a few days in the bush and to see the animals!  This meant turning around and driving back up north, past Richards Bay, up near the Mozambique border.  We got to the Vlei Lodge at around 3pm, just in time for high tea followed by a game drive and then intimate candlelight dinner in lodge room – with bubble bath and champagne to boot!  Almost a perfect moment, broken only by them showing up a bit too soon with our appetizers at the cabin…

 

Day 1 – 5am wake-up followed by 5:30 game drive, breakfast at 10am, rest and relaxation in our cabin, high tea at 3pm and tonight a special trip – where we skipped the game drive and at 6pm joined by another couple headed out to the coast with two guides to drive up the beach on the marine reserve and observe sea turtles coming onto the beach to lay their eggs – more on this amazing full moon event below.  This was a long night and we only got back to the lodge at 2am.

Day 2 – we slept through the morning’s game drive, had a nice breakfast, walked over to the “Forest Lodge” to check out the gift shop with our excellent guide and ranger, Martin, high tea, game drive and bush dinner with the other guests.

Day 3 – Game drive, breakfast, R&R, high tea, game drive – two highlights this evening:

  1. The Cheetah brothers we’d seen the day before where hungry this afternoon and had made their way up north in the reserve.  We watched them first, just lying about and then second stalk a heard of Wildebeests (Gnu).  As things would have it the heard sniffed them out and regrouped and we did not witness a chase (we found them again the next morning, with full stomachs, so they definitely did make a kill that night).  
  2. Every evening we would search for leopards just after sunset and  prior to our return to the lodge – up until now we had no success, but tonight we had the honor of following a large male leopard as he ambled through the woods and we, now fully off-road and trail, took a beating in our vehicle as we bashed our way through the brush – followed by dinner and bed

Day 4 – Game drive, breakfast and departure.

Pictures:

Reflections:

It is hard to describe perfection and I don’t think I have ever seen anything more beautiful, graceful, rhythmical and difficult than watching this female Loggerhead Turtle as she literally swam up the sandy beach, found a proper spot for laying, dug her nest and laid her eggs! 

It was the full moon and other than Ghost Crabs on the beach we saw little on the beach as we drove north for several kilometers.  When we spotter her finally, she was about 20 yards out of the water, making her way slowly and deliberately up the sloped beach.  The effort here was beyond measure and she would periodically rest for a few seconds between climbs.  It took quite a bit of time, particularly as it was more steeply sloped towards the base of the dunes where she stopped to dig her hole.  Sea Turtles glide effortlessly through the water in a floating fashion that has always fascinated and attracted me on the few underwater encounters I’ve had with them.  On the beach, they are literally swimming through sand and not gliding effortlessly at all!  I could swear I could see her sweat!

A sea turtle can be startled or scared off back into the water if disturbed during the landing and climbing process of their laying.  However once they start digging and laying, they are so focused on the issues at hand that they are as if in a trance and completely impervious to observers.  We were extremely careful not to disturb her, stopping the vehicle instantly upon sighting her and only after one of the guides was fully convinced that she was fully in the digging phase of her efforts did we approach more closely; still always staying behind her and out of direct sight.

When we did approached she was digging what I’ll call the nest – here is where I was overcome with the beauty and perfection: having created a hollow for the front part of her body (shell was about 1 meter in length by less than half a meter wide) she braced herself and using her back legs/fins she dug a perfectly round cylindrical tube into the sand.  First one leg would go down, turned like a shovel and scope out a fin full of sand and lay it on the resting place, once back the opposite fin would flick the sand from its previous excavation forward to the gathering pile, then it in turn would descend into the hole and bring out another scope of sand.  First one side, then the other.  This went on in perfect rhythm, slowly and methodically until the exact depth require was reached and then she stopped to begin laying.  We where all on our stomachs in the sand with the wind howling over us in complete mesmerized silence.  Laying the eggs now followed which we could see less clearly though was equally methodical as one by one the eggs dropped into the hole which had been dug. 

We were unable to stay until she finished due to the rising tide and the need to get back about 20 kilometers up the beach before there was no beach for us to drive on!

I was dumbfounded by nature’s perfection and the beauty of the life-given process or “mothering” which I witnessed and gained a new respect for motherhood and the process of giving life.

Driving back we were forced to stop after spotting a Leatherback Turtle just coming out of the water and heading up the beach.  She was huge!  easily twice if not three times the size of the Leatherback we been with earlier.  After she was fairly well up the beach we snuck past her with lights off, using only the moonlight to drive by.

It was a wonderful silent night.

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Days alone: Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa

Image of the day:

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View from my window: Rogue set on a calm day at J-Bay

Highlights:

On the 16th after dropping Dominique off at the airport in Port Elizabeth for a flight to Cape Town to teach a dance workshop this weekend, I made my way down to Jeffrey’s Bay in the mid-morning and had a great surf session that afternoon in some really nice waves at Super Tubes with some outstanding local surfers – better than I’ve seen anywhere in fact and no localism issues what so ever.  I love South Africa for this and so many other things!

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J-Bay, November 16th, 20011

I’ve had a nice taste of the town this time round.  I bought a wetsuit at Core after a nice tip from the owner of Surf Africa sent me there. I ate very well at Kitchen Windows, 3 Fat Fish as well as a good lunch at the Sunflower café. The highlight has been treating myself to rooms with a view over the break at African Perfection! Perfect placement…

Reflections:

Sitting on the deck outside my perfect room at African Perfection overlooking Super Tubes on a small windless morning at 5:30 in the morning, I sip my instant coffee and wonder at this beautiful place!

What calm. The only energy stirring is the restlessness of the surfers that have chosen to go out, or those still choosing. I’ve chosen not to. It’s not that I don’t mind sitting in the water with next to no waves, it’s rather that I would like to enjoy the calm of this morning from this perfect perch and write before hitting the road later this morning. That strange feeling of guilt – I should be out, no matter what – is not with me today, no not this morning.  I feel quite good right where I am.

I see the young boy I’ve been watching – and who has been watching me – arrive at the beach now. It’s 6am and he’s been sitting on the benches watching the surfers every time I’ve been out. He seems to be about 15-16 with that mildly disarming look of someone who is not entirely right, with kind, wild eyes, he always looks up at me smiles and waves as I’ve walked past him down to the water. I imagine that he yearns to go in the water, yet something blocks him from doing so. Is it a parent, a thought, a fear, or a feeling… who knows?  Yesterday I wanted to ask him, but he was gone by the time I came out of the water. How many areas in our life do we find ourselves like this boy, sitting on the beach wondering, waiting, wanting?  and what does it take to finally take that leap? Getting past the real and imaginary blocks and beliefs we have acquired through life seems to be an endless struggle. 

I’m glad he’s here, both as a reminder to myself and for the comfort he’s provided me – as perhaps the only guy watching me surf – or as I chose to believe watching over me as I surfed…  He is a good part of this beach

The other imagining I have around him is that perhaps he lost someone or something in the water and that every day comes down hoping to they will come back. I’ve never seen the ocean give back what she’s taken or made her own.

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Africa

On November 4th at 03:30 local time we arrived in Richards Bay, South Africa

Image of the day:

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Sunset and our last night out in the Indian Ocean flying south on the Agulhas Current

Highlights:

We made it! 

Reflections:

Never surrender, never give up!

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