Candid photographs are my favourite. I love capturing my subjects when they are unaware they are being watched.
Last year we went on a short holiday to Cape Town. I’m not a crowded beach sort of person but one day we decided to take a look at Camps Bay. Being summer we weren’t the only ones with the same idea and the only parking we could find was a very long way from the beach.
Walking back to the car in the late afternoon we passed a small park. These three men were sitting on the bench feeding the birds, one bird was so close to them it was almost touching their legs. Just as I took this shot someone on the road hooted. I was annoyed at the time but I think the result is quite effective.
This mother duck and ducklings were as intrigued by the canoeist as he was by them.
Many of my photos are taken ‘on the run’, through the front windscreen of the car, and Piet has become accustomed to my cries of “Oooh! Slow down! I need to get a picture of that!”
Yesterday driving into town I noticed this bus ahead of us.
Luckily a few kilometers ahead there is a security check for vehicles entering the Mosi-oa-Tunya National park, so I could get a couple of clearer shots and establish exactly what it was on top of that bus.
Last week I signed up for the Daily Post’s Blogging 101: Zero to Hero event which began today. This requires me to publish at least one post a day for the next month.
Also today our local (our only) electricity supplier advised us that not only are they carrying out routine maintenance on the line, but also that there has been a major break-down across the border in Zimbabwe – we receive some of our power from the Zimbabwe grid – so our electricity supply (and thus internet and telephone connection) will be interrupted throughout most of the week. One thing I have learned over the course of my life in Africa is that a sense of humour is essential for staying sane; I almost lost mine when I was told that.
Last year, which I hope was an unusual one, Piet and I spent most of the months from May to November awake – either chasing elephants out of our crops all night or, bleary-eyed and exhausted, trying to carry out our normal work during the day. I was speaking to Last Born son on the phone one evening while Piet was out doing battle. Through the phone Last Born could hear the booms of the fireworks and the continuous crackle from the radio which sits strategically on our kitchen counter – the elephant guards and Piet keeping a running commentary on the progress of the latest elephant incursion.
One particular broadcast came through loud and clear: “Bwana come in … There are some elephants now at Pivot three. And there are hippos on Pivot eight.”
“I tell my friends here in the UK about your rather large farm pest problems and no-one believes me.” said Last Born. “You need to write about this!”
Thus a seed was sown. I nurtured and grew it, mulling over the sort of things I would (and could!) write about in a blog. Then when First Born and his delightful English Lass visited in November I began to look at my life here in Africa through new eyes. English Lass’ delight and incredulity at what was going on around her, things I have taken for granted and accepted as ‘normal’, now appeared bizarre, exciting, interesting, fascinating. I thought, if I write about these things, perhaps others will be interested, excited and fascinated too. I read other blogs, spoke to friends who blog and eventually in May this year, just before the elephant season was due to begin, I wrote my first post. And nothing happened. The elephants did not come. We have already harvested one land of wheat – three to go – and will start on the maize next month and so far, not one elephant incursion.
Initially the purpose of this blog was to document our battles with elephants, hippos, buffaloes and other large, unusual farm pests. But in their absence the blog has evolved into a Salmagundi of African life. A hodgepodge of stories and pictures, depicting life for me (and others like me) living in Africa, dealing with Africa’s curved balls and oddities.
The title for this blog, Far Out in Africa was inspired by a comment my Mum made in a letter to me when my parents lived on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Zambia during the late 1980s. It wasn’t long after the release of the box office hit movie Out of Africa when Mum wrote to me:
“This place is so isolated and the things that go on around here are so way out and almost unbelievable that if Isak Dinesen had lived here she would have called her book ‘Far Out in Africa’.”
Africa is beautiful, there is no doubt about that. Africa is also harsh, unforgiving and cruel. Africa has the ability to blind-side you – to surprise, enchant and amuse with her quirky ways, and I hope that my readers will experience a taste of this through my blog.
Victoria Falls could be called the Adventure Capital of Africa. There is so much here for the thrill-seeker, from Bungee jumping to white water rafting, from riding elephants to walking with lions and just about everything in between.
Last November my Last Born, who now lives in the UK, came to stay and brought his delightful English Lass with him for her first trip to Africa.
When he was nine years old we had visited Victoria Falls, he had seen those crazy people who like to throw themselves off perfectly good bridges and from that day it became his dream to do the same. Of course he was young then and I could still tell him what he could and couldn’t do but now he is an adult there is not much I can do about it.
So one day I took them Bungee jumping.
Arriving to register (and to sign their lives away on what is probably a pretty water-tight indemnity form) we were greeted by this innocuous notice:
Then we saw this (that little box on the side of the bridge is where you stand before falling into the abyss):
And then this:
Reading the words on that indemnity form caused English Lass to have second thoughts (I don’t blame her!).
But Last Born, being quite persuasive got her to agree to do a tandem jump with him. Somehow the idea of being strapped to her nearest and dearest while falling 111 metres (365 feet) felt safer.
Apparently doing the Zip Line is the perfect way to prepare yourself for the Bungee, but it still looked pretty scary to me.
And then for the pièce de résistance. The Granddad of adrenalin rushes. The Bungee.
It was terrifying for me standing on that bridge (which shook and trembled as heavy-duty transport lorries trundled across in single file) watching my child launch himself into the air and then fall 111 metres – albeit attached to someone else and to a long rope. I think I shook and trembled more than those lorries.
Even hanging over the bridge rails taking these photos gave me a head rush!
And when I thought my ordeal was over English Lass, now overcome with adventure and excitement, agreed to jump on her own and they both had another go.
This was Last Born’s first visit back to Africa in five years and I think that day was the highlight of his trip. My highlight of the day was when we walked off that bridge and the ground wasn’t shaking.
We pump our irrigation water from the Zambezi River and the clearing where the pump house is situated also serves as our boat launching site. We are not the only ones who use the narrow, winding and bumpy road that makes its way through the forest to the pump house — we also share it with elephants, who make use of it mostly in the evenings, when they need to drink after a thirsty day in the sun. If we happen to both be on the road at the same time we will stop the vehicle and let them pass before proceeding and it is usually a civilised affair.
Late one afternoon Piet received a call from the pump house attendant; one of the motors was making a strange noise and he had to go there to see what was wrong. Sarel was away on leave at the time so we were dog-sitting his Jack Russell puppy Benji, who jumped onto Piet’s shoulders, delighted at the chance to go for a ride.
About half way to the river Piet heard the unmistakable sound of elephants breaking branches and then saw about 20 elephants lumbering along ahead of him, some on the road and a few scattered among the trees. He stopped and waited for a few minutes until thought the road was clear before slowly continuing, Benji trembling with excitement on his shoulders.
As they rounded the next corner Piet realised not all the elephants had moved on; there was a large cow, young calf in tow, standing on the side of the road and she was not pleased with him being so close to her child. It was too late for him to stop and reverse, so his only option was to dash past her and hope for the best. By this time Benji was beside himself with excitement, growling and whimpering, his sharp little claws digging into Piet’s shoulders. As they drew alongside the cow she thrust her trunk out, almost into the open window, and bellowed.
All hell broke loose: Benji scrambled down to the floor between Piet’s feet, howling and sobbing, the elephant continued bellowing and Piet, unable to work the foot pedals, yelled at Benji to move out of the way as the vehicle skidded forward out of reach.
It was only once he reached the relative safety of the pump house, heart racing and hands shaking that Piet noticed the dreadful stench – Benji had lost control of his bodily functions, down the back of Piet’s neck, along the front of his shirt, on the floor, on the pedals, on the seat! Understandably, the pump attendant kept his distance during the repairs.
It was a long time before we could persuade Benji to go for a ride with us again.