Saturday, November 21, 2009

Out of Africa

The bush can provide such contrasts! When my friends and I arrived at Ingwelala (Sleeping Leopard) – a private game farm adjacent to the famous Kruger National Park in South Africa – the bush was virtually non-existent. I have never seen the area so dry. There was no grass, and only a few trees had spring leaves showing. With so little vegetation, the visibility was excellent. And what one saw, for the most part, was the destruction wrought by elephants. Trees pushed over for the few leaves at the top; trees stripped of bark for something to eat.
Of course, there were few animals to be seen. What were they to eat? Impala, the most populous of southern African antelope were still around, ribs showing, nibbling at anything that showed promise of nutrition. We saw four elephants stripping trees of dry branches to chew – something I’d never seen before. A monkey here, a nyala or two there, no zebras or giraffe – the sightings were few and far between. The whole area looked like a war zone. And the fact that it was 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit) did not make the experience pleasurable. In fact, it made it difficult to focus on one reason for my visit – finishing the third Detective Kubu novel.
Then everything changed. On Saturday night an immense thunderstorm hit the area, with raging winds and torrential rain. For an hour there was a spectacular display of lightening and thunder – something I love with a passion. The temperature dropped to 15 degrees Celsius (about 60 degrees Fahrenheit), and my open-walled, thatched bungalow was soon cold. The central office lost all telephone and internet connections.
The next day was delightful – warm, but not hot, and sunny. The veld started showing off its spring beauty. Almost immediately, little shoots of grass and lilies poked through the sand. Of course, there were still no animals, but who cared. It was bliss to be driving around in our 1983 Nissan, converted into a game viewing vehicle. Phone and internet were restored.
Then things changed again. A cold front came through on Monday, bringing with it a heavy overcast, incessant drizzle, and more cold. Day after day of drip, drip, drip. By yesterday, (Friday), we had received 115 mm (4.5 inches) of soaking rain. The phone and internet disappeared again. And our solar system started taking strain – no sun for 5 days left us with enough light to read, but no ability to charge computers or camera batteries. Thank goodness we cook using gas inside the bungalow. Trying to start a braaivleis (South African name for barbeque) in the drizzle would have been impossible.
Now it is Saturday. I am plugged into power at the office and hoping that the internet is back up. If you are reading this, it is! It is still raining, still overcast. The various weather forecasts differ as to whether the clouds will lift on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday. I flew myself up to Ingwelala from my home town of Knysna on the Indian Ocean coast – about 1700 kms (1100 miles) away. To return, the weather has to improve, and the dirt runway has to be firm. I am going to drive there now and check it – once I have pushed up the canvas canopy of the 1983 Nissan to rid it of the vast amount of water that has accumulated over the past days. And dried the seats of the open vehicle. I don’t like driving with a wet backside!

Stan and Michael - Saturday


  1. Hi Stan and Michael-

    Great post! There's certainly no mistaking you're not in Kansas anymore.

    Great photo's too.

    I'm curious to know what kind of plane you have, high-wing, low-wing and also if you're instrument rated.

    Where is your bungalow,is it some kind of community that it has an office?

    I'm not sure what the rules are for blogging, if it's a place for you to respond to comments or not.

    If not, please stop by the Nordic/British/Irish/Euro crime mystery thread.

    We'd love to hear more about you and 'Kubu'. So far we haven't had any discussions about books set in Africa.

    If you have trouble finding us I'm sure Leighton can help.

    I'm looking forward to more posts from you on this blog.


  2. Great new blog! My brother has been to Kruger and it's been a place I've since dreamed about seeing. I look forward to more exotic (to me) locales and murderous thoughts. Welcome to the blogosphere...

  3. Great post and great blog. I've read or planning to read all of your books so this should be an interesting blog to check in on when I have a chance.
    As much as I like St.Louis, things get a little dull around here sometimes so with your books I can zip off to France, Africa, England or Iceland!

  4. Interesting weather patterns 'down' there.Sounds like 'up' here. My experience with Africa is one day in JNB before going off to Botswana. There I had the great pleasure to fly 'the bush' in a small plane. Wonderful experience.
    Will look for your series.

  5. Thanks for the post Susie. I own a share in a 1980 low-wing Mooney 201 - very quick and economical. Takes just over 6 hours to fly from Knysna to Ingwelala instead of an 18 hour drive.

    Ingwelala is called a share-block. There are about 200 owners, each with a small bungalow. All owners enjoy traversing rights over four farms totalling about 6000 acres bordering Kruger National Park - no fences stop the animals, although we can't enter it.

    Ingwelala has a small administrative staff with an office and small shop. None of the owners bunugalows have electricity except from solar. Long may that remain, otherwise I fear loud TVs and other obnoxious intrusions.


  6. Johannesburg thunderstorms are magnificent - full of sound and fury! I miss them whenever I am not on the highveld (South Africa's high country). Joburg, as we call it, is 6000 feet (about 1500 metres) above sea level.

  7. Lovely post, Stan. When you said via SKYPE you had only intermittent internet connection, you weren't just kidding. Best to you and Michael.


  8. Nice photos, gents. I hear you fellows write some, too.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"