Blue Crane

My parents always used to love the sunrise. During winter (and partly because my siblings and I were too lazy to wake up so early in summer) my parents used to wake us up at around 5h30 on a Saturday and we used to take a drive down to North Beach in Durban. Armed with the Skottel braai and an extremely excessive amount of clothes, we set off to the beach. As the sun rose, the smell of eggs and bacon being lovingly prepared on an open braai wafted through the promenade enticing the early morning joggers as they scuttled along. I find it quite funny that kids always complain to their parents about experiences like these but when we are all grown up, they actually want to do exactly that.

I remember the first time I was in Cape Town during summer. As it was a family holiday, my siblings and I were lazily messing about when we looked at the time and compared it to what we believe the sky should look like. The whole thing where it’s 8pm and it’s still as bright as the afternoon gives you quite a shock. This whole messed up time zone issue has the opposite effect in summer. My yearning for this sunrise experience means I wake up pretty early to catch the sunrise. My guess of 5h30 was a bit off. I reawaken at 6h30 and well, it’s still pitch black! I finally get out of bed at just after 7h00 and only then does first light creep through the cracks of cloud to adorn the sky with its faint twilight

Okay enough about this romanticised sunrise, the geographical location of Mossel Bay means that unlike Durban, the sun rises from a point above some hill perpendicular to the sea. It was very much a non-event and I did some mental swearing (okay, it was verbal) when I realised that I had woken up so damn early for nothing. The sun was actually supremely lazy and actually appeared not to rise! Nevertheless, even though Mossel Bay would be the most westward sleepover, my travelling spirit coerced me to soldier on. It knew that there was something special coming along today…

I have love for industry and how humanity has used their ingenuity and intelligence to extract so much from the earth and make such amazing use of these raw materials. Take the computer you are staring at right now – most of the insides are made from sand that went through a complicated process that extracted the silicone in order to provide the chips sitting under your fingers. Mossel Bay is home to PetroSA. They are responsible for most of the petrol that you use in your car. A rather large refinery is stationed at Mossel Bay with some of the crude being provided by the offshore drilling outside Mossel Bay. I’m not entirely sure if drilling still takes place. The actual refinery is one of pure industrial beauty. Behemoths in the distance cloaked in the morning haze whilst the towering flares pierce through the fog, proclaiming their power through the clouds.

Just next door to PetroSA is the Gourikwa Power Station. Named after the inhabitants of the area when the Portuguese discovered Mossel Bay, it’s one of the newest power stations in South Africa and is a gas-fired Station. Unlike the coal and nuclear stations, this one works on the exhaust gasses of diesel (or a similar gas.) These types of power stations give us some of the highest efficiencies for fossil fuel power stations and are pretty common in Texas and the Middle East. This is simply because diesel there is abundant and cheap. This is exactly why South Africa has coal-fired stations – we have one of the biggest coal seams in the world so we use it for our power generation. Anyway, this station and its sibling, Ankerlig Power Station in Atlantis, are used as Peaking Stations – when the demand for electricity cannot be met by the base load coal stations, these stations fire up. They can start generating in just a few minutes and are great at supplying immediate electricity. The downside is that the running cost of these stations is exorbitant. These stations were built for several billion Rands but the hope is that the stations will never be used. This might not make sense to you but when you’re working with this much of electricity and money, having an expensive but reliable back up plan is a GREAT idea.

Anyway, a traveller can only marvel at the man-made world for a limited time. As I head westward, I take a dirt road down to Vleesbaai and Fransmanshoek. I’m assuming some French dude did something important (or not) at this point. That’s just a hunch…

The waves down at Fransmanshoek had the echo of traffic on a freeway. The sound was so much purer and in this pureness, came a brilliant tranquillity. There is such a sense of serenity and solitude here. I decided I want a house here.

The dirt road down to Fransmanshoek is littered with various ostrich farms. I’m assuming a lot of these birds are destined for the Global Wrapps menu. However, a strange site catches my eye whilst driving past one of these farms. On an open field, a flock of around 50 of these strange, wild and blue creatures merrily strut their stuff like models down a runway. On closer inspection, this is none other than our national bird, the blue crane. A weird feeling of pride engulfs my innards as I see them in all their natural glory. These birds are truly majestic. As i get off the car, they sense me and as I walk, they threaten flight until they have a 50 or so metre barrier between them and I. They truly are national VIPs complete with this eloquent, regal persona.

The bird is now classified as vulnerable with an estimated 27000 remaining in the wild. Compare that to the 6 billion people on Earth and you will figure out that is a rather small number. The reason is pretty much the same as for most other animals – human encroachment onto their territory. Being such an amazing national symbol, there is heavy government protection afforded to this animal and hopefully this shall help this bird thrive.

These seriously are such beautiful creatures. I sat on my car just watching them for several minutes before they decided that their present location wasn’t suitable and they flew off, again with the grace of royalty. The sense of pride and joy that these birds brought to me lingered within me. We can only hope that these birds can continue giving this feeling to many, many future generations…

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