Tag Archive: south africa


goodbye to africa


i have left cape town.  greetings from the airport in johannesburg, where i am waiting to board a plane that i will be sitting in for the next 18 hours – we fly via senegal, but i don't think we'll have time to get out and walk around.  i hear there is a tropical storm making its way up the east coast of the US, so i hope we can land tomorrow.

i'll post more when i get stateside.  wish me luck!

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two oceans aquarium

here are some shots from two oceans aquarium, which boasts one of two 'captive' living kelp forests in the world, some nice sharks and turtles, and the biggest morays i have ever seen. 

Octopus vulgarisSpiny lobsterHagfishCuttlefish, Sepia vermiculataCuttlefish, Sepia vermiculata

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castle of good hope

(31 may) yesterday afternoon i visited the castle of good hope, the oldest building in south africa and its military seat.  the castle is pentagonal and used to sit on the seashore (the dungeon floor was made of wet sand), until a large amount of land was ‘reclaimed’ and became the downtown area.  i had lunch (something interesting called ‘waterbluitjie soup,’ which as far as i can tell means soup made from water lilies – tasted a little like asparagus) and looked over my map to get my bearings, then wandered around a bit on my own before taking an official tour.  some of the highlights included the several-hundred-year-old graffiti on the cell doors, which have since been reversed on their hinges so you can see the carvings (made using nails pulled from the prisoners’ boots); the reconstructed dolphin pool; and the museum collections of colonial furniture and black-and-white portaits of san people taken in the early 1900’s.  oh, and the brass plaque outside – see below.  :)

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Alpine scrubApostles from aboveDowntown & cablesMountaintop 1Mountaintop 2Mountintop 3PassagewaySunsetThe house at the top

on monday evening after work, we went up the cableway to the top of table mountain to have a look around.  this is what we looked around at.  :)

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one for the pebbles

(30 may) the squirrels in the company's gardens are apparently famous.  my guidebook says 'the squirrels that scamper here were imported to cape town from north america by cecil john rhodes, whose statue stands in the centre of the gardens.' 

i come from a place where squirrels are no big deal, but having lived without them in new zealand for five years, and having traveled fairly often with someone who thinks they are one of the most exciting animals ever, i have gained a new appreciation for them.

and the ones in the gardens deserve it.  they are fat and sassy, and have only a thin veneer of natural squirrel wariness, overlying a deep and abiding gluttony.  crackle a bag of peanuts within ten metres of one, and soon he'll be sitting in your lap, tracking bird poop across your pants and nearly purring as his shoebutton eyes glaze over in a protein-induced ecstasy.

i think we all had a good afternoon.  :)

sniffingnibblingdid i leave the gas on?nosingi long for a grapefruit

extreme close-upposingconsideringeyeingsearching

 

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it's been nearly a week since i had the chance to post, so the posts below will separately detail a few of the interesting things i've done in the meantime.  i have a few more days' worth of work at the museum this week, but will also be taking in a few more sights before i leave on saturday.

enjoy!

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bycatch!

(28 may) the museum received some fresh specimens last week (from a research cruise, actually, so 'bycatch' is inaccurate but fit in with the b-themed titles), including 14 species of cephalopod!  so i got the chance to have the first look at them, photograph them, and take tissue samples, before they were fixed in formalin.  i am also working on identifying them, and have most of the squids down to genus at least.  (the octopus IDs will come from someone a little more knowledgeable.) 

preliminarily, the specimens include: Lycoteuthis lorigera, Histioteuthis bonnellii, Teuthowenia pellucida, Liocranchia reinhardti, Bathyteuthis bacidifera, Octopoteuthis sp. (danae or sicula I think), ?Sepioloidea sp., and Egea or Megalocranchia sp.  none are onychoteuthids, but it's the first time i've seen most of these species, so it's exciting for me in an extremely dry taxonomic kind of way.

two other things of interest also came in – two tentacles from an (estimated) 2m ML colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni), which are the first colossal squid bits for the museum, and also a baby pygmy sperm whale.
hooray for esoteric squid species!  :)

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boats!

(27 may, from my journal)  after sitting in anthills twice, i think i have finally found a safe place to write from.  thank goodness there are no fire ants in south africa!

it is a beautiful day and we are at what bugs calls 'the dam,' a man-made reservoir near the village of villiersdorp, about 1:15 east of cape town.  bugs has a caravan here and belongs to the water sport club, and comes here about every second weekend.  it was a lovely drive out, via butterfly world, and with a stunning view of franschhoek valley as we crossed the hottentots-holland mountain range.

this weekend is the closing of the sailing season and as such, quite a few people went out on the water for a closing cruise.  i was lucky enough to get on a boat and tag along, the first time i have been sailing in about 18 years.  it was a great ride – there was a steady breeze, and the crew of four were mostly my age and very experienced as a sailing team. 

after dinner, which was scheduled for about two hours after we returned to land, i turned in early (under my two duvets and three blankets), listened briefly to the frogs singing, and then slept nearly 11 hours.
this morning after breakfast, bugs had a club meeting to attend, so i was free to explore my own.  it is a glorious day and the sun is shining on the water, so i went for a walk partway around the reservoir, which is surrounded on most sides by mountains.  i made it as far as a marshy spot where the river enters the reservoir and got a wet foot hopping onto a deceptively firm-looking sandbank, then turned back.
   
and now i am sitting in the shade of a willow a few dozen meters from the water's edge, listening to the birds singing, and it is lovely.  there is snow on the top of a nearby mountain, a light warm breeze, a dog playing in the shallow water, and i have found a place where the ants are not running up and down my legs.  perfect.

 

journallingreservoircaravanfranschhoek valley

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bugs!

(26 may) on the way out of town for the weekend, we stopped off at butterfly world, an indoor garden where 400-600 butterfly chrysalises (imported from tropical breeders) are hatched every week and allowed to roam free.  it was early morning and only 14 degrees C so most of the butterflies were still resting in the trees, but it made finding them more of a challenge (and reward).  there were about 10 different kinds, including glass-wing butterflies, which i had never seen live before.  they are amazing.  there was also an arachnid room with some good scorpions and spiders, including 'baboon spiders,' the african equivalent of tarantulas (which is apparently a misnomer when used as a general term).  and a smiling frog.

Butterfly 1Butterfly 2Butterfly 3Butterfly 4Butterfly 6ChrysalisesJubjubScorpionSmiling frog

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bushes!

(25 may) over lunch, bugs took me to kirstenbosch, the national botanical gardens.  the weather has turned lovely and we spent a few hours walking around in the sun, admiring ficus, cycads, flowering aloes, waterberries, ferns and native fynbos of various kinds.  we also had an impressively large lunch (should have expected as much from the 'middle eastern vegetarian platter') before stumbling back to the museum to try to stay awake for the last two hours of the workday

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