Category: Travel

De Wildt

The start of April I found myself on the way to the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre near Bela Bela. It was my second visit to the centre and a wonderful experience as always. It was the first time I went on the tour that the centre offers and I learned much about cheetahs, vultures, wild dogs and other wild animals. Ann van Dyk officially opened the centre in 1971, which primarily focused on the rehabilitation of stray and injured cheetahs. The cheetahs are bred to live in captivity, which is a lot better than catching and caging a wild cheetah for display purposes. The centre also has a few crocodiles, dangerous hippos and a variety of birds.

In the evenings we braaied our steaks (medium-rare, naturally) and drank red wine. We listened utterly mesmerised to the chuckle of the fire and the relaxing sounds of the bushveld. There is a lion camp near De Wildt and in the evenings we could hear the rumbling lions in the distance. The cackling laughter of jackals also drifted through the darkness on various occasions and gave an eerie feel to the night.

I dusted off my DSLR camera and Sony video camera for this trip, and thoroughly enjoyed ‘documenting’ my experience at De Wildt. Nature photography will always be one of my most enjoyable hobbies and I am currently saving for a 500mm lens. I cannot wait to visit the Kruger National Park; I really would love snapping a leopard dragging its prey into a tree!

Ann van Dyk really does so much for wildlife conservation and the compassion that some people possess is sometimes astonishing. If only we had more people like Ann van Dyk in the corner of the defenseless rhino…

 

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A New Year

A new year has come and landed on our shoulders. So much anticipation and hope fills my heart. There is an abundance of projects to take on, new things to try out and goals to aim at. A new year is a new start to many of us; a way to wipe that filthy and inadequate slate clean. It’s a new year where we discard habits that aren’t beneficial, we want to experience more and to drink of the wine of life.

May your 2012 offer you life-changing opportunities, through hard work or chance.

May you pick the fruit of life and discard the rotten ones.

May you expand your capacity for compassion and empathy this year: may you learn to walk in others’ boots and not to lash out at others in ignorance.

May you indulge in all the beautiful things that life has given you, but without turning a blind eye to all the evil and injustice in the world.

May you appreciate every second that you have been granted on this earth.

May you appreciate every hot meal you can enjoy in the comfort of your home, surrounded by irreplaceable family and friends.

May you avoid frivolous quarrels and rebuild bridges unceremoniously burnt.

May you mean more and more to those around you, may you be a shoulder to cry on, or a source of laughter.

May you strengthen the foundation of existing friendships, through leisurely times shared.

May you live without restraint and drink Life to the lees.

Location: Game farm near Rustenburg

Canon 350D – f/6.3 – 1/640 sec – 300mm

African Close

I had the privilege to see the White Rhinoceros this December, something I would not easily forget. These beasts have a mythical air about them, they are like ancient tanks that have outgrown all their predators – that is until Man came along. This species is on the brink of extinction and it would be a great tragedy if they were to be wiped from the face of the earth as a result from the beliefs that some people hold. Some idiots believe rhino horn can cure cancer and other maniacs believe that it can cure impotence – ever heard of Viagra???! It is saddens me that people can be bought so easily; people who live in Africa are essentially the ones who are pulling the triggers and flailing the machetes. I really hope that people can receive adequate education so as to eradicate this madness. There is still hope for this world.

Let us hope that 2012 is the year that people will come to their senses and that Africa and the World will start looking after its children and wildlife. I believe that each individual can make a difference, and that the sum of all these little differences can become powerful enough to change the bigger picture. Let us set an example to future generations.

 

African Close

 

As the close of day draws near,

  orange and bloody ribbons twirl and

dance in dark and smoky African sky,

  we dance for rain, we dance for respite.


Old titans fall as mortals – people unite.


The bushveld is bleeding in melancholy.

  Severed rhino horn an Asian trophy;

African crown toppling to arid ground,

  yet remains an easy sacrifice to survival


Primitive beliefs unite – morals fall.

 

The beauty of the majestic lion,

  a symbol of the ferocious spirit and

the resilient and robust native,

rising dark prince of the earth.


Children with guns – deadly mirth.


As the close of day draws near,

  the murky water of Africa stirs,

the potential of heavenly birth

  remains a devilish thought.


Pity that Man is so easily bought.


Francois Hermanus Steyn – 2011

Butterfly Effect

A shoot of grass, leisurely swaying in the Limpopo wind.

Have you heard about the story of the twin butterflies? One flapped his wings and brought rains, floods, suffering and death. The other flapped his wings and brought rains, the end of a drought, relief and life. Not an exceptionally long story, I know!

Most of us have heard about the butterfly effect: the thought that a seemingly insignificant action can set into motion a series of events that affect the grander scheme of things. Now think of us as butterflies, and that we can in some small measure control the beating of our wings. Sure, we don’t know the eventual outcome some of our words or actions may have, but we can control the direction of our flapping, and most importantly, we can seed those breezes with optimism or pessimism.

We may seem like a single shoot of grass in a cacophony of opinions, but it is possible that one of our seeds may eventually land on fertile ground that can eventually make a difference in the lives of one, or many. We should not underestimate the power of the tongue, or underestimate the power of a single voice.

Will you beat your wings in compassion and feed?

Or beat your wings in wrath and murder?

Thabazimbi Sunset

I was on a friend’s farm near Thabazimbi in the Limpopo province, when I took this picture of the sun nestling in the fork of the branches of this majestic tree. The sky was painted with beautiful crystal blues and warm oranges and reds. The scene was powerfully calm and serene.

 

I wrote this poem in 2010. It is a sombre poem and has a figurative meaning that can apply to many things such as relationships, personal goals, morals etcetera.

The important thing is to compose yourself, and to find the resolution and determination to shake that cold from your shoulders.

 

Sunset

 

It’s hard to shake this cold

From weary, broken shoulders

The crystals of frost bite

Deeply without relent

Leaving their bloody mark

This ship is moving into the dark

 

The sky is painted by the sun

As it nears the golden rim

Of the earth’s cold crust

The air is arid, filled with dust

The relief will come with black

Stars settling into the cracks

 

It’s hard to shake this weariness

From cold, broken shoulders

Don’t go into the setting sun

Alas, beseeching falls from the cliff

This ship is lost without its compass

Lost without its beacon : stars

 

The dead of night is calm –

Owls fill the deadly sky

Sure to feast on this heart’s

Aimless wandering rats

They’re stricken with panic

Dealing with this fear, titanic

 

It’s hard to shake this cold

From weary, broken shoulders

Barring logic’s flow with boulders

Embers of the heart, smoulders

It’s hard to shake this cold

It’s hard to shake this cold

 

Written 2010 – Francois Hermanus Steyn

Freezing Dam(n)

The Vaal dam is freezing cold in winter, inside and out. But the respite this place offers after a hectic semester is brilliant: all you do is chill out, watch rugby, play darts, stay warm in the Jacuzzi, braai and ride four-wheeler. I’m pretty sure the chill has something to do with the large body of cool water cooling down the surrounding air – thank goodness for the Jacuzzi. Close by is a little town named Oranjeville, which basically consisted of a church, police station and liquor store. Good trip.

I think our country offers us so much beauty that we can explore and that we need to organize more road trips and stop taking our country for granted, forget about globetrotting and the Eifel Tower – just give me the Vaal dam, a boat and some skis. You can’t Google skiing with your mates on the Vaal dam, now can you?  I want to travel from Durban to Cape Town, checking out the sights and sounds, stopping at little, desolate towns to share a beer with the locals. We have it all right under our noses: the big five, mountains, see, sand, the Karoo and culture that varies like the colours of the rainbow. Let’s drink it in.

Karoo Sunrise

A Karoo sunrise as seen from the Three Sisters (one of them is a hiding a bit), taken in May 2011.

We stayed at the Three Sisters guest farm in early May, and this was the scene that greeted us minutes shy of 7 o’clock, just before we undertook the journey back to Johannesburg. It was as though God had decided to paint the sky with pink and orange pastels, just for fun.

One stark topic that was discussed with the owner of the guest farm was that of fracking (hydraulic fracturing). Fracking is a process where one creates or widens fractures in underground rock layers in order to expand these fractures; and this ultimately causes more natural gas and oil to flow through the fracture, and thus more oil and natural gas can be mined from a given piece of land.

Basically, men in their little suits with piles of money locked away in the vaults of banks in America and Switzerland want to drill the Karoo for oil and gas.

It does not seem that the little towns in the Karoo will have the infrastructure or amount of readily available water to sustainably introduce fracking, and it would be a real shame if such a beautiful part of South Africa would become another toy of capitalism; another vein of blood to be sucked dry in a jiffy.
 

Karoo Sunrise

 

In the heart of the harsh Karoo,

As sun rises slowly from sleep

Unveiling from previous black canvas:

Soft pastel hues that melt into blue,

Blue untouched by soot or smoke

Enveloping a wild, rugged landscape

With its caring, crystal cloak

That morning the few who gazed

At heaven saw, in wondrous awe:

God playing happily with His crayons

Winking at the painters of today

As He pinched the sun and tugged,

Casting His eye on the crystal blue

In the heart of the harsh Karoo.

 

June 2011 – Francois Hermanus Steyn