Saturday, 21 April 2012

Lots of Snakes

I know I keep waffling on about snakes, but they are such a big part of our lives here, and who doesn't like a good snake story! So settle down with a hot cuppa coffee and read on..

Dylan and the Rattlesnake
At Canyon lake, the kids were having a grand time finding all sorts of treasure.. they found coins, lots of fishing stuff like lures, weights, a whole tin full of assorted hooks, and even a golden lighter which had Michael excited for a moment as he thought it was the real deal!  Needless to say, the treasure hunting efforts were escalated.  Dylan saw an interesting rope sticking out from under a rock and gave it a  good tug... it seemed stuck, so he lifted the rock and saw a rattle snake looking back at him.  He dropped the rock and ran.  He had been tugging the rattle snake's tail!!!
P.S. Be careful while skipping through the blue-bonnets!

Siobhan's Green Snake
While riding her bike down the nature trail, Jessica narrowly missed a green snake lying in the path.  We all rushed over to have a look.  Siobhan was terribly tempted to catch it.  We have read that it is harmless, however I find it hard to trust snakes.

With Cousin's like this... who needs enemies?
We were visiting uncle JB at the barn, Michael & Dylan were scrambling around some old machinery (not clever).  Dylan suddenly grabs Michael by the arm and stammers... "Mmmmm Mike... there there's a sss nn snake!" It was a huge black snake.  Uncle JB armed Michael with a pistol and the two of them went snake hunting, I could hardly watch especially since Michael was wearing flip-flops.  They quickly found the snake and Michael with true marksmanship shot the snake 8 times without missing.

Then a truly horrible and cunning plan occurred to us all at the same time... Kyle has a horror for snakes, Kyle's car was un-locked, and so with diabolical and fiendish glee... we all dragged the long black snake over to Kyle's car and artistically arranged it on the floor.  We planned how they would reveal the snake with the flashlight, before Kyle actually started the car, since we were convinced that Kyle would have an accident if he was actually driving at the time of discovery.  When we got home, we had a fit of remorse and called Kyle's dad, Dex and let him in on the plot... he was delighted at the scheme and said he looked forward to it.  Kyle riding in the car with him was mildly suspicious.  When they arrived at the barn, Olly & JB walked to the car with Kyle and then said "Oh, Michael left something on the floor for you."  Kyle leaned right into the car and put his hand on the floor, that's when he realized that there was a very large reptile in the car with him.  He lept back about 4 meters and let fly with a few choice words!

Diamond back on the Diamond
Uncle JB lives next to the local baseball pitch.  Some kids knocked a ball out into the long grass, and a boy was running after it when he saw a huge snake lift itself up and strike at the ball.  He skidded to a halt, and the whole team ran over and clubbed it to death with their bats.  The snake never had a chance! It was 3ft long rattlesnake.

No snake story time would be complete without a little 
Urban Legend!!
Now a little warning, never run your hand over any tyre.  The Rattlesnakes bite the tires, and leave their teeth behind.  Everybody here wears gloves when handling tires, and in tyre repair shops they run a soft cloth over tires to see if it snags on a tooth.  Well sounds good doesn't it... and it had me going for a while...  urban legend strikes yet again.

USA vs Africa - Weather & houses.

weather ..

We seriously keep under-estimating the weather here.  People have doppler-radar apps on their phones, and check the weather all the time.  We blissfully sail on through our days, unaware of any impending danger until  suddenly a massive storm looms over the horizon, threatening with winds of 60-80 miles an hour, lightening strikes, hail, flooding and possibly even tornadoes.  Yes, of course we get Hurricanes and Cyclones in Africa.. but it makes a substantial difference when we live in a solid brick house.  In fact most houses around here are made  a little tougher than Wheet-bix, but not much.  A Wheet-bix house is all very well, until a hurricane/flood/tornado comes along!  Wheet-bix houses are cheap to build, instant and practically disposable... hence their popularity here in the USA.  Wheet-bix houses would really delight the criminals in Africa, hence their lack of existence in Africa.  It would be so easy to knock a hole straight through the wall of a Wheet-bix house, it might just be harder to break a window.

Excerpt from my diary a few nights ago.
It's 01:30 a.m. and I am awake because my trailer is being buffeted by howling winds..  so I've been trawling the net looking for weather alerts.  'Wind advisory' is in place, which means what?  I have ominous images of tornadoes whirling through my brain.  Turns out in this case that it means we should not travel with our trailer, or possibly that the trailer could blow over.  Yikes.
Ignore the weather at your own peril in the US.  In fact  the first time I heard a severe weather alert on the radio, I was not too perturbed until I heard the words 'tornado watch'.  TORNADO!!! My goodness, when you live in a trailer constructed like an oversized match box, the word TORNADO is very scary.
On a previous trip to the US, Stuart and I were walking outside  and saying  "look at that storm, those clouds are a funny green color... could be hail - hey, where are the Americans?"
Turns out the Americans were in their storm shelters and nobody told "the Africans" to run and hide because they all thought it was obvious that a tornado was lurking in the clouds!  Same thing happened to my folks.

Late afternoon 2 days ago, I drove  into the camp ground and said to the kids "that's funny, I've never seen a trailer leaving the park at this time of day, they usually leave before 12:00 pm" and then we saw lots of trailers being hooked up, and people rushing around with big wide eye's.  That was when we began to realize that possibly the clouds looming overhead were threatening!  Our friend Jimmy, from the park security force, came over and said "follow me".. we followed him to the rodeo arena and parked our cars under the big roof, and sheltered through the storm inside a cinder block building.  It felt safe.  Stuart was in Dubai, watching our weather on Doppler radar, and told us when the storm had passed.  Don't you just love technology.

This is our lake.. 
and those heaving waves are generated by wind alone!

Also if you think Hoedspruit is hot ... try Texas!

In my experience, the best weather in the world is in Harare.  The summer is mild and probably the most perfect temperature ever.  Winter is mild.  You might put on a sweater in the morning, but by mid-day it's warm enough to take it off.

If I got a little carried away with the tornado images.. you have to admit that they are kinda impressive! They come off google images.
I need to get a weather radio.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Jet Ski - The bad boys!

The Bad Boys...!
We had an amazing time playing with these 
jet-ski's.. thanks Solomon.  Sol has a need for speed, and we flew over the water faster than we have ever gone before, with a few ramps thrown in for good measure.
 You can take the African out of Africa... 
but you can never take Africa out of an African.

A Fabulous pair, Kirsty & Dex.

A few of our favorite things... more planes!

We drove 45 miles to see a  fly-by, and on arrival found that we had missed the show.  Then we discovered this little gem at the same airfield.  An old wooden World War II hanger, with about 25 World War II planes in flying condition.  The hanger was used by the Texans as a training base.  The Commemorative Air Force fly and maintain the planes. The Hangar was built in 1942 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

 B25 - The Yellow Rose.  
Used to train the Texans before they left for Europe.
Where Stuart belongs..

 Inside the Yellow Rose.

 "High Flight"

 Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
 And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
 Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
 of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
 You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
 High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
 I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
 My eager craft through footless halls of air....

 Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
 I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
 Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
 And, while with silent lifting mind I have trod
 The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
 - Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

 This battered old trunk could tell a tale or two.

And outside on the airfield...

Bob Hoover, an icon and his plane "Ole Yeller"

Bob Hoover's "Ole Yeller". Photo by Michael.

Bob Hoover is an icon.  He flew a Spitfire during World War II.  In 1944 his malfunctioning Mark V Spitfire was shot down in France, and he spent 16 months at a German prison camp.  He managed to escape from the prison camp, stole an Fw190 and flew to safety in the Netherlands.  
He flew aerobatics in the Mustang "ole Yeller" at air shows around the country until his retirement in the 1990's.  
Bob Hoover has set records for transcontinental and "time to climb" speed.
Bob Hoover is best known for his civil air show career, which started when he was hired to demonstrate the capabilities of Aero Commander's Shrike Commander, a twin piston-engined business aircraft which had developed a rather staid reputation due to its bulky shape. Hoover showed the strength of the plane as he put the aircraft through rolls, loops, and other maneuvers which most people would not associate with executive aircraft. 
With the advent of camcorders, Hoover added a flourish to the act by pouring a cup of tea from a Thermos bottle, while performing a slow barrel roll, a 1G maneuver. Video of this has been widely distributed.
Hoover also served for many years as the official starter of the Unlimited-class races at the Reno Air Races. The race planes (mostly modified World War II fighter aircraft) joined up in line-abreast formation on Hoover's yellow P-51 Mustang, and when in satisfactory order the spectators would hear over the PA his famous radio call, "Gentlemen, you have a race." Hoover's plane would pull up sharply into a vertical climb as the racers dived toward the first turn. Hoover would circle overhead during the race, ready to assist any race pilots with problems. In several cases, Hoover helped pilots with crippled race planes to a safe recovery by talking them down while flying in formation with them. (source: Wikipedia) 

The golden fish, Road kill & Phones.

Like the golden fish, caught by a fisherman, in the Arabian Nights... This little golden fish pleaded for his life with his large eye's and desperate gasps.  Dylan, being a kind hearted boy, released the fish, and we had chicken for dinner!

On the other hand,  these unfortunate souls had BBQ Road kill for dinner.  
It looks like a Possum too!
Which reminds me of a fine story.  When we were quite new here in the USA (which we still are actually) we were quite delighted at our first sighting of a Possum.  We all strategized a plan of attack, and on the count of 3 we all charged through the woods, chasing after the Possum.  Well the Possum took one look over it's shoulder and a look of pure astonishment crossed it's face.  It began to run as fast as it's little Possum legs could carry it and completely forgot to play dead, to our intense disappointment.  
We are still waiting to see a Possum play dead!  
I think word is out, because we have not seen another Possum here since then.

These people were catering for a wedding in the park.  These BBQ trailers are a Texan thing.

I have a horrible confession to make...
we used phones (telkom) exactly like this in South Africa, and not too long ago...

and these black phone here... we used phones like this in Zimbabwe, not too long ago...
I'm proud to say that I have never in my life used a phone like this one!
These phones are all in a museum with signs saying "Please do not touch, these phones are very fragile"

Sunday, 8 April 2012


We met a South African couple, John and Sally, in Wimberly and they with true African hospitality invited us to their house.  Sally provided swimming costumes, towels and tubes for the kids. They spent a delightful afternoon floating and swimming in the Blanco River.  We all chatted about the Kruger Park and Botswana and drank hot tea from a silver tea pot.  Heaven!
The kids walking up the path, 
after a lazy swim in the river. 

Michael noticed this little "leaf" floating down the river together with all the other leaves, and then he noticed tiny legs kicking! This is the smallest snapping turtle we have ever seen, but we still kept our fingers out of reach!

Little snippet of interesting information:
When the Civil War raged through the South, the community contributed to the Confederacy's efforts by making charcoal on the banks of the Blanco and by hauling tons of bat guano from local caves and packing it, along with the charcoal, on mules to Austin.  Potassium nitrate was extracted from the guano and mixed with other ingredients to make gun powder for the Confederate Army.

Pieter, from Holland, is riding his bike from from Miami to San Fransico.  What an inspiration!
We chatted in English, then a wonderful mixture of Afrikaans and on his part Dutch.  He rode away with a smile, having heard something close to his home language while in a far and foreign land.
This tree reminded us of the book "My side of the Mountain".  One of the greatest books ever written for boys, if you have never read it... put it on your book list.
In the story, a boy runs away from home and survives in the wild Catskill mountains, he finds a hollow tree and turns it into his home.  Read it! 

Another historic town, near Canyon lake.  A magical little town in the Texas Hill Country.  Wimberley was designated one of America's "Ten Best Small Towns" by Travel Holiday Magazine.

The Texas Hill Country reminds us a lot of Mpumalanga, South Africa except the hills are only about 1000ft high.  Mpumalanga being the tail end of the Drakensburg mountains, reaches 6000 ft in the Belfast & Dullstroom area's.  Anyway, the mountains feel like home, and we loved it here.