“Now that’s a Fire,” and other events that lead us to the Fish Eagle

A highly recommended attraction of Kimberley actually lies some twenty kilometres north of the city. Taking the N12 north, one takes the Riverton turn-off to get to, well, Riverton. Then, after what seems like forever along a road straighter than freshly GHD’d hair, here is where the Northern Cape Aquatic Sports Club is situated. It is also where the Oceanos was recovered and left.

Kershen has this pretty awesome friend named Rowen that I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks ago whilst in Jozi. Rowen’s job is to be professionally awesome. He is probably the best in his field as well. 🙂 Anyway, Rowen has a boat. Boats are pretty cool. These marine contraptions have fascinated me for years. I never did get into the mechanics of their inner workings but nevertheless, travelling freely on the open water with the wind blowing in your hair is a great experience. My aim was to drive the boat. The aim never did materialise as I think they DEFINITELY have laws against driving whilst intoxicated. Also, if I make a mistake, we will tip over into the mighty Vaal to freeze to death like Leonardo Di Caprio did.

The Northern Cape is not renowned for its water. The solar potential of this province, however, is immense. Even in winter, the sun glares down on you with the intensity of summer anywhere else. The vast space available in the province gives promise to the renewable energy potential of the area. With the hopeful advances in solar technology and what is energy’s Holy Grail – energy storage, maybe one day our country’s electricity supply will come from the sun. Looking over at the mighty Vaal though, one would never guess that we had a water problem. Then again, crossing parts of the Amazon takes 30 minutes by commercial airliner. This river, I reckon I could swim across. Though I didn’t hazard trying – it being cold and all and all and all.

After a quick launch, Rowen took the boat for a spin. I’m pretty impressed with this picture. That boat was doing some speed and I managed to capture it pretty well. Kudos to my little Canon SX110 IS…

Riding shotgun in a boat is breathtaking – partly because the resultant wind does not allow much air to enter your nose successfully. This icy cold breeze cleans your face of all the pollutants brought on it by our modern, industrial lifestyle and allows you to become one with this natural beauty. Vegetation lines this mighty river as far as the eyes can see whilst the animals faunacate on the branches, in the air, on the ground and in the depths.

A boat is not a boat unless it has 6×9’s in them. Our boat did. Classic rock, a dop and the Mother Nature makes for a great life.

As we laze, floating down the mighty Vaal, the sun leaves the sky as gloriously as a phoenix. The river shimmers whilst attempting to reflect the grandeur of the sun. I sit back, close my eyes, and smile.

It’s pretty hard sailing at night. I wonder if sailing is the right word here seeing that we had no sails! Anyway…Man must make fire. Man must eat. We made fire. We ate. It rained. The fire was a Man’s fire. That pitiful rain stood no chance! Bwahahaha! It did rain pretty heavily though. Rain in winter is cold. Man solves this with Brandy. I did not feel cold. Whenever Rowen stepped into the rain, it seemed to rain harder. I should warn him to go check out his karma – apparently your local GP can do this along with your normal check-up.

The night was hectic. Apart from questionable hygiene, the night took its toll in other ways as well. My eyes were eaten by a savage beanie. Kershen lost his hand to a Corsa Diesel. I must say he did show good form by not spilling his dop. Kudos to Kershen…

Back on the river on this glorious morning, we see the sights that were rather dark last night. Kimberley also has a meteorite crash site. Scientists have studied this area alongside the Vaal River and attributed the rock formations to a meteor strike sometime in the past. It’s not a hugely impressive site but maybe this is where all the diamonds came from – OUTER SPACE! Booyah!

As with all Apartheid creations, the riverside resort of Riverton is partnered with a resort for the oppressed. Named Langley, the area where it is situated is actually better than Riverton with a flat piece of land cleared to allow for easy picnicking whereas Riverton’s picnic spot is built on a slope. Apartheid infrastructure: FAIL. We did discuss and deduce that the Apartheid planners probably got sick of the flat Platte land all over Kimberley and added this slope for a bit of excitement.

Dams aren’t the only ways water is collected from the river. There are two huge towers sticking out the Vaal that collect water and provide it to the town and surrounds. Kimberley is not small – it has over 300 000 residents yet this method provides ample supply. There are shock stories about the supply though with bodies being found in reservoirs and the like. I still drank the water – impurities and bacteria are a way of life and bottled water just makes you more of a sissy. I’m still not drinking the water in India though! Anyway, apart from the swallow nests, one can see a few holes about two-thirds the way up the tower. This is the overflow and either in 1998 or 1988 (I know there was an eight somewhere in the year); the river was so high that these were covered.

Even the breathtaking sunset of the previous evening could not come anywhere close to what happened as we sailed down river. Atop a branch in yonder distance, I spot a large brown bird perched and watching the world. It majestically takes of and flaps its graceful wings as it sails across the blue sky. It lets out its call – next to the lion, Africa’s most powerful and unmistakeable call. I witness the Flight of the Fish Eagle. I close my eyes and take this in. And I smile…

Day 19: Procrastination

The one certainty about this course was procrastination. It has actually been such an awesome week that has gone pass but each day, I keep on procrastinating and saying that I will start my project tomorrow or I’ll update the blog tomorrow.

Well, first things first, this blog won’t cover the whole week but I will (hopefully) get back to that in time! This week started on Tuesday actually – the weekend, which extended to Monday was brilliantly spent around 700km away in Durban. So that meant that on Tuesday morning, at 5am mind you, I had to trek from my place in Johannesburg to Witbank. Leaving at 5am wasn’t too bad especially since there was no mist and I encountered one of the most beautiful sites – the sunrise over the Highveld. It’s nothing compared to those beautiful sunrises one sees in Durban, where the sun slowly peaks over the ocean on the horizon and within an hour, it blazes and warms the souls of Durbanites. On the Highveld, well, the sun peeks over the, um, veld! The stunning red crept over the hills in the distance and bathed the barren landscape in a weak shade of yellow. It’s as if the sun wasn’t trying that hard to make any real impression on the Earth. It was beautiful though!

Driving in the dark, though, has a major problem – you can’t see pedestrians. And when you are travelling at 120kph and some random guy wearing impressively dark clothing takes a casual stroll across the freeway ten minutes before 6am, it’s something that makes you go “WTF!!!” I was lucky that this brave soul had comfortably crossed the freeway and was a good metre away from my car as I passed. You never know what you would do in a situation where you hit someone who is crossing the freeway. And the scary thing that I thought about was that with life as it is nowadays, the one n problem that people will consider is the time you lose on your travel schedule. I had to be at Duvha Power Station before 7am and if I had hit the guy, I would have never made it there in time. So the choice would have been stop, see what happened and help the guy or just drive on. It’s scary that the second option is an option that really could be taken!

The day was interesting with a walk down of some auxiliary systems of Duvha Power Station. This included the Precipitators and Water Cooling Plant. It’s amazing how much water is actually used at a power station. And when you look at the clouds coming out of the cooling towers, it just amazes you about the huge scale that power generation exists upon. There will be more about this later in another blog.

These three weeks have exposed me to something that I can’t make sense of just yet. Apparently, a South African peculiarity is that people of especially White and Black origin eat meat at every meal! A meal is almost not considered a meal if there is no meat present. And this meat is properly prepared steaks, chops and chicken – it seems the fish are lucky as they aren’t considered a proper meat! I was in Ermelo yesterday and at the Spur, where I had supper, I ordered the Enchilada and the waiter asked me if I’d like Beef or Chicken in it. When I said I want vegetables (because I’m vegetarian) it didn’t register as a proper choice. It appeared as if he was pre-programmed to either bring Enchilada meals that have Beef or Chicken in them and anything else is just wrong and the world might explode. Similarly with my sister, who was also somewhere in the bundus like me (Zeerust in the North-West to be precise) relayed a similar story. She is also vegetarian and she was forced to eat meat because the chefs didn’t cook the vegetables in a way that would constitute a meal. The vegetables were just boiled and were meant as an accompaniment to the meat. The meat that they did cook was almost gourmet – perfectly cooked steaks, roasted lamb, grilled chicken and the like. And, people ate this at every meal! Anyway, when I was a meat eater, I think I ate meat a maximum of four times a week. This is not because I fasted but because eating that much meat was not necessary. There are countless vegetable dishes that provide a more than adequate meal. Eating meat 21 times a week (yes, even at breakfast) just doesn’t register in my mind. Yet, I have witnessed people eating meat for all three meals in a day and they do complain if there is no meat!

The interesting thing about this is that it does show that the prices we pay in South Africa are really low. People from all socio-economic classes eat meat everyday which does give an indication that meat is readily available at a reasonably affordable price. When I discussed this issue with some people, they did point out that meat overseas does have a high premium attached to it and this means you can’t cook meat at every meal. This forces you to search for an alternate and, as a result, this helps in health terms. This whole meat issue does explain the size of some people I’m guessing. Then again, I’m not a doctor so I won’t factualise that link! But anyway, this has made me think of the state of things in South Africa and the world as a whole. Globalisation has meant that everything around the world is slowly settling towards a common price. Whether you buy an item in Hungary or in South Africa, because of global competition (and price-fixing!) you will pay around the same amount. And that is what is happening in several sectors. Coal, for example, is needed around the world for energy use and because South Africa has so much, they can supply everyone! This means that to buy coal in South Africa, you will need to pay a higher amount than before because there is a market outside the borders that is willing to pay a higher price than the historical price that a local paid. At some point, there will be equilibrium as such – the local price will compete against the international price so the miners will be happy selling their coal to either market. I hope that makes sense!

Now, how does this tie in with the meat? Quite simply, South Africa has historically had cheap meat. Maybe it was the self sufficiency of the Apartheid government that put us in this situation but because we were forced to have enough livestock to sustain the country, it was possible for meat to be sold cheaply as it was abundant. Cheap meat means you eat meat – and lots of it! So your culture is grown around providing meat to eat at every meal. As a child, you grow up expecting meat and not having meat means the meal is severely deficient. Now, taking the coal example of above – I hope you can see where this is going? The globalisation is going to drive food prices higher and now, people won’t be able to afford “eating” (i.e. eat meat!) and hence, they go on strike! They couple this with a grievance against the high electricity prices which is directly related to coal and what do you get – a nationwide strike which we had this week!

All in all, this means that the global energy crisis is caused by the smugness that South African’s have of eating meat at all meals! Wow, who would have thought that!