The science of natural things

Foot 1

What do you see…. A simple boot print?  I see a story!

Since I was a kid I have been interested in tracking. Animal tracking can be fun, however my guilty pleasure has always been a bit more sinister. As I write this I can almost see Fiona’s eyes rolling, but maybe there is someone else who finds this interesting. So why not.

Looking back, this interest was probably sparked by programs like the Lone Ranger not to mention those terrible jungle war movies that I was drawn to as I kid. What ever the reason was, it stuck. I am not the best tracker in the world nor would I ever claim to be anything other than interested. Do I make mistakes you may ask?   Yes I do. But I always learn from them and try hone my interest.

Tracking for me is not some “Rambo” like ambition. It is something that I do whilst out and about. It’s second nature to me now. I have used aspects of it my whole life and to be honest it has never been anything but positive. To me its a great way to learn more about your environment and your surroundings as well as there being new things to learn and experiment with. A few very basic examples are as follows; How long does a print last in the soil and in what type of soil? How much pressure does it take to break what type of branch? Do they break like in the movies or do they just bend?How long does it take a certain spider to spin a new web, when do certain spiders spin webs? Bird language, animal behavior and the list goes on and on. There are so many variables to take into account I cant possibly mention them all. For me tracking is really the study of natural things and people. That being said, I will continue with this story.

We have been having issues with poaching of all types for years, this is nothing new. However I was really horrified to see how bad it has become in my area. It seems that rising unemployment and an overloaded legal system has thrown down the red carpet for certain people.

In my youth, poaching seemed a little more candid. Some guy going around taking a few things he should not. Not really a big deal. He would get a warning, maybe a fine and that would be that. Now it seems to be a fully fledged way of life for some. A very  profitable way to make money. A new world market with US dollar prices. These people have no intention of doing anything else.  They have been giving our Rangers the run around for some time.

Now when faced with a problem like this I try to put myself in their shoes. See their problems and how would they solve them. In doing so I can see the flaws, patterns and weak links in the chain. The same as tracking any animal.

One thing I do know that humans don’t do anything without motivation. Not even something as simple as going to the loo. We don’t move a muscle without a reason. It turns out that a group is actually  taken the initiative. They are actively watching the patrolling Rangers and moving according to their schedule. But that could be their weakness. I will explain.

I started to explore the place were the animals have been repeatedly harvested and worked my way back. Literally in a way that I would not be seen. It was not possible. So they must be doing this in the dark….A vehicle driving in the dark would be noticed…They must be dropped off in the day and walk in at night. I looked at all the places I would hide that would meet the following criteria: Must be a easy drop off point, must be able to walk with a heavy carry load, good cell phone reception, good overview of any roads and Rangers, must be able to hide from Thermal and IR detection and bingo.  I found their route, their staging area and collection point. This area has been used repeatedly by multiple people for some time. The poachers were definitely watching the Rangers and acting accordingly. The signs range from a month or more rightq up to 24hours old. The way these individuals were operating was cunning as well as incredibly interesting .

 

Bag 2

Belly bag used for harvesting

Bags 4

Bags used to transport the animals

Condoms used to make cell phones waterproof

I am not an expert as I mentioned however the signs indicated a minimum of 3 guys excluding the driver. From what I could see they were athletic, aware and motivated. Not forgetting at least one of them has a drug problem. This could mean he could be unpredictable, aggressive or sloppy. However to be honest I was hoping for the latter. As it turns out that night they employed quite an innovative tactic. Multiple people hit a few different areas. This area had a total of 7 operators but this particular spot was the overview point. Three were detained but one of the Rangers had to break off the car chase for the remaining offenders. A second vehicle appeared and tried to force him off the road whilst in pursuit of the first.  Things elevated quickly. It is becoming very clear that the steaks are high and people are willing to risk it all in the pursuit of quick cash.

 

Tracking or situational awareness is beneficial to just about everyone now days, no matter if its for hiking pleasure, a better understanding of our natural world, driving home from work or even being aware with regards to your local neighbourhood watch.

If you find this type of story interesting or you would like to know more about tracking and or situational awareness , please indicate so by commenting or leaving a like. I am happy to share the things I have learnt or noticed with people who are interested.

Thank You

Dan

On Any Normal Day……

I was on my way to pick up my dad from work today when I was treated to a very odd sight. A long string of cars making its way slowly towards me in the opposite lane.

This in itself was not unusual but what was odd was the reason for the traffic. A newish model car moving at snails pace. Hmmm probably a tourist taking in the sights. As I got closer I noticed that this car had a few items omitted from the body work. Some of the first things I noticed, No drivers door, No windscreen or side windows, Number plate not even a rear window. Not to mention that the drivers side wheel looked like it was just about to drop off. It was slowly wobbling along, in a mesmerizing  rhythmic fashion. The whole car act looked like it was a bit bent. It was like a wet exhausted dog with its tongue hanging out, limping home after a over enthusiastic day at the beach. I did not want to be late so I gave this wreck a lot of room and proceeded with my travels.

When I was returning home with my dad I noticed that this rolling wreck had not moved very far, in fact the engine had now also seemed to have given up the ghost and the passengers had abandoned ship to start pushing. Further up the road whilst I was saying goodbye to my dad I found myself strumming the steering wheel. Oh alright then. I cant actually leave this, its just begging for further investigation.

Upon finding the “wet dog” had only moved a few feet, I slowed, stopped and asked what the issue was (silly question). In hindsight I should have asked where the rest of the car was!  Apparently the alternator belt had broken! Like that was the big issue at the moment.  No really!!!! Was that the issue… everything else was apparently ok.

Now I am the first one to criticize people who moan but will not step in, so I was left with no real choice but to help…   ” Do you need a tow”…. My thinking was to at least clear the road. It was starting to get a bit dark and it would only be a matter of time before some Friday night speedster made two cars into one, using the rear end method.

I was then asked , could I please tow them home as it was not far… Great…. Like a moth to the flame…. Sure. I said, but please can the passenger ride with me as you cant tow a vehicle with two people in it.

Whilst I was dragging floppy to its home a police car drove past. Here we go I was thinking. Get your wallet out, this is going to cost me.  Nothing.  Not even a second glance! Again two min later a second police car drove past…. No ways my luck would last this long. I normally get pulled over on my bike at the drop of a hat. There was no way I am going to get away with this. I am towing a car with no lights, no doors, nothing. At this moment I leaned over to the passenger. The conversation went something like this.

Me: Whew that was close. Two cop cars, I cant believe we have not been pulled over.

Passenger: Don’t worry about it,  its ok.

Me: Why you say that! On any normal day I would be on the side of the road begging for forgiveness.

Passenger: Don’t worry about it, I am a COP…..We are the POLICE…..

Me: Your kidding.

They Were Not Kidding… They were police. They had picked up their half finished repair job from a panel shop. Apparently they were not happy with the job so they decided to take it home as is. This particular panel shop was at least 20km away.

Wonders never cease, I see new and wonderful things everyday. I was left dumbstruck and speechless. Wonderful.

Dan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter sunsets, a canvas of colour!

There is something quite magical about Winter sunsets in False Bay, Cape Town.

It is getting rather chilly here at night with few days of rain which we are extremely grateful to be having as we are in an extreme water shortage at the moment.

This was our sunset last night (Sunday) and just couldn’t resist sharing it on the blog! Would be great to see some sunsets from across the world, so if you like please feel free to share them with us and where it was taken!

P.s please excuse me I had to take these photographs with my cellphone as I didn’t have my camera with me and just wanted to be able to capture the wonderful moment of colours upon the sky before they left!

Fiona

Love is all around us in different forms …

 

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I took this image early one Winter’s morning in an informal settlement near to where I live. The air was cold and still. Inside the home, the mood was sombre. The family had just been told that their “utatomkhulu” (isiXhosa for grandfather) had just passed away.

I couldn’t help but notice the family’s beloved dog who slept outside beside the shack on a dilapidated yet warm and soft couch with a water bowl placed on the damp sand below him.

It really showed me that even in impoverished areas, where extreme and difficult situations are a part of daily life, there is a huge amount of love for those that are cared for. It doesn’t matter how hard things may be, you should always be able to love and be loved!

Thank you for reading!

Fiona

Blue the Pied Crow

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“Blue” the resident Pied Crow

It is not often you able to go for a run and have your resident Pied Crow circle overhead watching you while you exercise. Well this is what I experienced this afternoon.

Firstly here is a brief background about this Pied Crow. He was found with an injured leg by our neighbour roughly a year ago. Having some bird rehabilitation knowledge the bird was taken in and cared for by our neighbour who managed to rehabilitated this crow and fondly named him Blue. A few months later, his foster guardian decided that Blu was ready to be released. But alas Blue didn’t want to leave! Now, Blue happily lives in Simonstown on the balcony of our neighbour. He is free to fly the streets and mountains of Simonstown throughout the day and always returns at around 17h00 to roost for the night. Blue has made some human friends in particular with our home and a few other homes within the neighborhood. He can often be heard squawking for your attention in the morning in the hopes of receiving a piece of fruit or biscuit as a treat, he politely waits at the sliding door and never enters your home without your permission! Calling for your attention and continuing to do so until you acknowledge him. He is not reliant on food from humans, as I have often seen Blue with a mouse or a small bird captured his claws, a feast he was not able to catch when he was injured.

I have learnt a lot of Pied Crows since Blue has moved in and realise they are incredibly intelligent indeed! Who would have thought a crow could become your companion as he has done in our neighbours case and certainly has impacted the lives of others in our neighbourhood.

Blue followed overhead while I was running this evening for a good 1km. It was a strange feeling not only for me but I am sure for the many people who passed me, finding it peculiar that not only did I have a crow following and swooping down on me, I was in fact answering him back every time he squawked!

Crows and ravens have had a long history of ominous associations, dating at least as far back as ancient Rome. They often have been used in literature as omens of death or foreboding. Perhaps this is because of their black feathers, or because they are known to sometimes feed on dead carcasses. While it’s true that sometimes a circling crow is scoping out carrion, and they have been known historically to circle battlefields and other places where people have died, yet there are other reasons a crow might be circling.

Blue stopped for a second on a sign post after picking up some carrion. Thankfully I had my phone and managed to snap this beautiful yet ominous picture of Blue! The evening’s air felt quite electric yet strangely was rather comforting having Blue accompany me and definitely didn’t feel like he was a messenger of death tonight.

Thank you for reading!
Fiona

How free are YOU?

What is freedom ?  A Simple question or is it.

We are all familiar with the term incarceration. You commit a crime, you are tried in a court and if found guilty you get sent to jail. Solitary confinement and jail time are the worst form of punishment that man has dreamt up without infringing on human rights. Traditionally you are assigned a certain amount of time (depending of the severity of your crime) , to a small cell where you sleep, a mess hall where you eat and a yard, where if you lucky you can get a few hours of sunshine a week. If you are well behaved you can get assigned a little job punching number-plates for a few dollars a week (room and board are included).

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My understanding is that the hardest part of doing time is not so much “doing the time” but the routine. Nothing changes, it is exactly the same routine every single day. The relentless repetition and routine grinds down on even the hardest criminals. How do you know your in jail? The security and barb wire fencing and your loss of freedom. Your punishment is the constant reminder that you don’t have any choice in your day-to-day activities, every decision is made on your behalf and your just a zombie doing your time. I think we can all agree that we all would rather avoid any time in the clink if at all possible.

This is what is interesting to me. If we look at our lives in modernity we can all say we have given up certain aspects of our freedom. The question is really how much have you given up or lost unintentionally. I was having a quick think about the various lifestyles we choose to see if I could draw any parallels.

On the extreme end of the scale let’s look at city living. We constantly cram ourselves into tiny rooms in grey multi-story building blocks, with various security measures including 24 hour surveillance , buzzers , intercoms, key card access, endless rules and the list goes on.

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Our routine is to wake up, make a quick breakfast if we have time, rush of to some bus or underground train, clock into some very important irrelevant job that involves flying a desk. We then rush off as the clock strikes the hour back to your block to catch a take away “sad meal” on your way to check in for a shower and sleep time. Five or six times a week we do this,all in the hope of our one or two days off (invariably to buy food in preparation for the following week). We eat sleep and repeat the cycle, watching a clock, day in and day out till we either get a better job with a bigger cell ( Apartment) or we burn out. The only distraction is the chance of surrounding ourselves with more expensive and trendy trappings to numb the pain and the eventual demises of our dull existence.

There are many parallels between that type of life and incarceration. However people who live in the suburbs are better off in certain aspects no doubt, however they to have the same fundamental underlying issues.

Lets for a moment look at hard core drug addicts. The supposed scum of the earth. Have you ever for a moment thought of what’s its like to be in their shoes.

Prisoners if I have ever seen one. Never see one far from home for long or have any real freedom of choice as they are under a clock. No fences or high walls keeping them locked down. Just the threat of time. Time till the next fix is like a gun to their heads, always cocked and ready to fire. The ever present need to reset a clock that never stops ticking.

Have you ever dreamed of sailing away off into the distance?

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In reality it can be wet and cold, your all alone in desert of unmanageable expanse, monotonous dehydrated food and bad conditions with the ever present threat of loosing your life in a freak storm.

heavy weather sailing

What could possibly be inviting about something like that? Well maybe, The freedom of choice. The freedom to go anywhere at any time and the unknown over the horizon. Freedom to explore. The choice to set your sails to far away lands and adventures.

The facts are , no one can exist in this world for any amount of time without money.

You cant be happy without a certain amount of it, its our life blood.Anyone who tells you different is either clueless or wealthy, in my experience its the latter.

We all have to sacrifice certain freedoms in life and make compromise’s to get by. I have made way to many to mention. We all need to find a way to live our lives in a full and satisfying way.  I have found that we don’t need to be walled in to be prisoners in modern society, in-fact its really easy. As humans we adapt really well. It has helped us thrive but it can just as easily turn against us. One day its unthinkable, the next its a option and then finally, its expected. The trick is that we must not forget what we are working towards and whats really important in the long run.

Of all the worldly possessions we could possibly get our hands on, the most valuable commodity we  have and the only commodity that increases with each second that rolls buy is, time. The real question is…..

What are you going to do with yours. 

Thank you for reading. Anyway it was just a thought I had the other day, lets not forget its only my humble opinion.  Please feel free to share any comments or thoughts you may have.

Dan

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Beauty comes in many forms. For some it’s in the obvious sense, for othersit can be special moments that are cherished and make us feel alive. Remind us of who we are and what we have become. Some people are open to appreciating beauty each and every day wherever they are, some people are not so fortunate in having the ability of realising what beauty lies within their surrounding. 

With all that is going on around us whether it be political, environmental or personal there is beauty all around us. We just not always able to see the beauty for what it is. 

Be grateful and cherish each and every moment,you never know when it may be your last…

Fiona 

10 Days and 2480 km’s

Dan and I recently completed our longest road trip to date!

We departed early on Saturday morning & headed for Baviaanskloof approximately 630km from home. I made a deal with Dan that en route to Baviaanskloof I would not stop at farmstall’s apart from taking a leg stretch, toilet break or snack stop. I am proud to say that I managed to do just that. The trip was long & almost never ending, but think it was due to the excitement we had for the Leopard Trail that lay ahead, as well as the unknown as to where exactly we were going to be staying that night as the GPS was not picking up the exact location & there was no cellphone signal within the Baviaanskloof region.

After many memorizing long quite roads, passing through major industrial cities of South Africa (George & Mossel Bay), we turned right onto a dirt road which would take us down Base Camp known as Hikers Hut in Baviaanskloof where the next day we would begin our hike.

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Road going through Baviaanskloof

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Leopard Trail – Landscape blackened by the raging fires that swept through in December 2016

10 of us completed the Leopard Trail, some of us had met each other on Arangieskop in October 2016, others  were new but very quickly we all made friends. Days were extremely hot, reaching 40 plus degrees by midday & a warm 23 degrees in the evening. There was never a breath of wind, a luxury for us having come from windy Cape Town. We experienced a partial solar eclipse late one afternoon which was a very special event. I think what added to this memory is that we were literally in the middle of nowhere experiencing the true beauty and remoteness of nature. Simply the best!

There were many scorpions around each camp site and on the last evening we even managed to come across a Solifugae also commonly known as a Sun Spider, totally fascinating & wanting to constantly be in everyone’s shadow whilst making its way across the ‘braai’ area, eventually heading back into the bush.

4 days of tenting in absolute wilderness was something quite incredible for me.As I had never done this sort of thing before. Yet always dreamed about doing it. Always starting our day before the sun was up and ending our day & tucked into our sleeping bag’s by 20h00! The sights, the sounds & the fresh air really does something wonderful for the soul. I know it contributed to me being absolutely content in going to bed so early listening to all the nocturnal creatures whilst staring at the stars! Dan not so much as he is normally only winding down around midnight!

Leopard Trail was a great & as usual an unforgettable experience. The landscape was blackened from fires that had raged through in December 2016. Therefore there was minimal shade & flora, yet it was a good visual of the landscape & type of rock found within the area. February was an extremely hot month to do Leopard Trail, but I didn’t know when next we would be able to do it hence took the opportunity regardless, as a result there were minimal watering points, waterfalls & rivers. I think it would be a stunning hike in Autumn or Spring.

After the Leopard Trail we then made our way to a farm in Joubertina where we stayed the night. A soft bed & hot shower was well received after many days tenting! We left early the next morning & made our way to Storms River Mouth Rest Camp. With permission from the owner, we could not resist the urge to pick some fresh fruit to take home. So some fresh pears of varying types as well as some green figs & fresh nectarines. Directly from farm to table! Mom was thrilled!

After exploring every possible shop en route we arrived at the campsite where we were now able to set up our tent in record time. After all, we are getting quite good at it now. Thanks to Leopard Trail.

From Storms River Mouth it was on to Diepwalle in Knysna for 2 days, which was beautiful and very tranquil set high on the mountain in amongst the indigenous forest. We then went to Barrydale for the night before returning home.

Our days were filled with much sight seeing, beach walks, hiking along the coastline through forestry, walking 50m into a guano cave, finding a bushman’s cave/ resting spot, spending time with calving cows, drinking unpasteurized milk, plenty of good food, chats, no cellphone signal (a big plus for me as I always enjoy escaping technology) and many other memories in between.

Below is a video that Dan put together of our trip. I managed to have my hand on the camera for a bit so please excuse the shaking as I was more focused on hiking & concentrating when boulder hopping!

Taking leave & road tripping is simply the best recipe my soul could have asked for. I certainly did not want to return to work, but one thing is always certain. Whenever we come back from a holiday we always have more adventures & ideas lined up for future trips. It definitely gives me motivation and determination whenever I return home to do the absolute best I can wherever I can so that I am able to go away & enjoy these amazing getaways.

If you would like more information on the camp sites that we stayed at, cost etc please don’t hesitate to comment & I will provide you with the information.

Hope you enjoy!
Fiona

Unexpected Surprises

(This will be of special interest to anyone who has taken a picture, or anyone who is interested in the mechanics of photography.)

 Sometimes a random string of events, that are perfectly timed, can lead to something totally unexpected. Fiona & I were lucky enough to slip away for the weekend up the West coast. I  could not help putting up a post about this little moment that had us both bewildered. So simple in its form and yet so enchanting.

We had been driving around for some time in a remote area on our coastline, When the inevitable happened. Fiona needed to use a bathroom! So did I, but I was not going to admit to it at that stage.  We drove for approximately 27km to an old VOC Farm House. ( It used to supply salted fish to the Dutch East India Company Ships passing Cape Town). This farm house was built in approximately 1744, so its safe to say that it is quite old. It has not changed much in its design but now has a small eatery with bathroom. Just what we needed. Fiona was first in the door with me following in hot pursuit. I was stumped, pipped to the post because of  an old swollen, wormhole riddled door that does not really close properly. Out of respect for the door, I was not going to force it but politely held it while Fiona did the necessary (To the victor go the spoils). 

It was at this moment, just pushing the door gently enough to get it to latch that I noticed it.

Everything was just right for a very brief moment. Amongst the myriad of tiny worm holes there was just one that was all the way through the frame, at just the correct angle. Along with the perfect time of day and the ideal amount of sun. This created the perfect focal length for what was going to be the subject of our discussion for the next few hours. 

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A perfect image of the farm house projected on the door frame wall. Fiona did not know what I was going on about at first, but we both landed up staring at the image in disbelief.

No one was going to believe us on this one. It was changing fast but Fiona quickly said we should grab the camera to try take a picture. With childlike excitement I went back to the car, got the camera and tried to re create the chain of events that created the image. In this short time the sun had moved and the quality had been lost. So I went outside to see if I could get into the frame of view. The above picture is what Fiona managed to get. Mere moments had past. The farmhouse picture was blurred and stretched but we had this picture to remember the moment.

I have seen the theory of pin hole cameras before and I understand the principle, but I have never actually seen it like this. Totally natural in its origin with a celestial shutter. We both debated the randomness of the events as well as the perfect timing to witness it.

Road trips and exploring can be fascinating and exhilarating if you take the time to notice it, or in this case race to the nearest 18th century farmhouse toilet complete with worm hole projector door fame.

Great Picture Fiona. Well done I think its the best one you have taken of me to date.

Dan

 

Bullies

 

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No one likes a bully. I must admit I have not thought about my school bullies in years. I did not even know it was still a thing these days. No matter what the underlying reason is, everyone is responsible for their behaviour. Bullying is very destructive and it can have huge ramifications on ones formative years. I do know one thing though. No matter how strong or intimidating your bully is at this moment, they all started some where. They all had moments when they were small and weak, they even had a moment when they looked silly.

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I recently read a post from a fellow blogger who is trying to raise awareness about this problem. Please feel free to stop in at his blog and offer your comments and or support at  The Ordinary Compass https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/109499141/posts/1690 

Thanks for reading.

Dan