Weekly Photo Challenge: Twisted Barbed Wire

Barbed Wire is definitely something twisted, something that doesn’t maintain a straight line. Between the old and beautiful buildings of South-Africa you can often find spikes and barbed wire, intended to keep people safe. It does look like some places go to extremes for safety but I guess it is necessary in some cases. In the military science of fortification, wire obstacles are defensive obstacles made from barbed wire, barbed tape or concertina wire. They are designed to disrupt, delay and generally slow down an attacking enemy. They are definitely not desined to be beautiful or appealing.

To think that the use of barbed wire was intended in war situations and is now being used to protect houses or alleyways. Barbed wire is undeniably an invention that has changed property and ranching, prisons and concentration camps, and defence and snares.

I wish they could invent something “prettier” to don the gates and walls of properties. What would be even better, would be if this twisted wire were not needed anymore.

Barbed Wire Defence
Twisted Barbed Wire

Why Nature is Good for the Soul

Cape Point Nature Reserve
Just an hour’s drive from the bustle and buzz of downtown Cape Town lies a large and peaceful reserve: Cape Point – one of the most scenically spectacular parks in the whole of South Africa.

Being out in nature is not only good for your physical health, it is also very beneficial for your mental health. Have you noticed how grumpy people get in winter compared to their mood during spring and summer? I think it is because we don’t always get out into nature during winter and that this affects our mental health negatively.

Here are some reasons why nature is good for your soul.

( All of these photos were taken on a recent trip I went on to the Cape Point Nature Reserve. It is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.)

1. Nature helps to center your mind

If we don’t watch out we are constantly glancing at your to-do list or worrying about, our finances, our relationships, or something else. It seems like we constantly have a never-ending list of things to do. We need to make it a point to give ourselves a cognitive break by distracting ourselves with the sights and sounds of the outdoors. Watch and listen to the birds chirping, the waves crashing, the trees swaying in the wind, and the bugs moving around you. Taking at least a 30min break a day will help improve our mental health.

2. Unplug and Escape the technological trap.

Multi-tasking, particularly with electronic devices, is a leading cause of stress. Breaking free from the never-ending loop of your Facebook or Instagram newsfeed should be a top reason for getting outdoors. After all, staring at screens too long can hurt your eyes and strain your neck, and it’s often a sedentary activity. Nature, on the other hand, offers a beautiful window into real life. Put down your phone. leave your devices behind and head into nature and just enjoy the calming effect this will have. Nature allows us to to leave the stressors of our everyday lives behind and instead focus our minds on something more pure. By centering your mind, you can relax your body.

3. It Lowers Stress Hormone Levels

It’s true that many of us don’t realize how highly strung we’ve become until we take a step back from it all, let go of the pen welded to our fingers, and tell our shoulders to come back down from our ears.

A recent Dutch study suggests that spending time in nature and performing repetitive tasks such as gardening can fight stress better than other leisure activities.

In Japan, this has really caught on and forest bathing is now an official stress management activity. Research into the effects of these au naturel excursions has found a significant decrease in anger, anxiety, and depression, as well as better immune function.

4. Nature Heightens the Senses and Memory

Spending time outdoors can actually strengthen your senses and memory. When in nature, you’re exposed to plenty of sights, smells, sounds, and touches and have ample amounts of new things to take in.

These experiences help enhance all your senses, and being outdoors has also been proven to improve short term memory. You don’t need to spend hours outdoors even short periods of time are very beneficial.

5. Learn something new.

Walking around and exploring your surroundings is an excellent opportunity to learn something new about the world. We often take things for granted and it’s only when we look around us that we notice how little we know about the world. What’s the name of that flower that you see around the corner every day? What sort of tree grows along the path you are on? And what do you call that critter that scooted across the road this morning? After a walk, Google what you saw or take out books from the library on flowers, trees, or animals to find answers. You can also arrange for walking tours with experts or visit local botanic gardens that have informative signs. Then when you go for walks with others at a later date, you can wow them with your newfound knowledge.

6. Nature can help you keep it together

It’s all too easy to get caught in a busy cycle of working non-stop and not taking breaks to go outside, relax for a moment, and breathe in some fresh air. But having a good work/life balance is crucial if you want to have a long, happy existence.

Nature is the glue that can help you keep it together in this increasingly noisy world, as research shows that it can improve both your mental and physical health. No matter how far you feel like travelling, you can always spend at least a little time in nature each day. Whether you take a short, 10-minute walk around your neighborhood or a one-hour stroll along a trail in the woods, getting outside more often is a wonderful first step toward living an even healthier life.

Crash of Rhinos

“The most beautiful in the world is, of course, the world itself.” -Wallace Stevens

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Lion death stares

“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” – Anna Quindlen

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Mud-covered Rhino

“Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times”

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Charging Elephant Bull

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustav Flaubert

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

The colourful Cape Minstrels Street Parade

The Cape Minstrels take over the streets of the Mother City each year for the annual and historic Second New Year Street Parade, a colourful procession also known as Second New Year. Spirited cultural music and dance celebration explodes onto the Mother City’s streets in a flurry of colour, song, drumbeats and movement every year. The colours are bright and fibrant and the minstrels often end up being just ‘a face in the crowd‘ on photos of this even..

People line the streets from early morning, some even camping since the previous night just to get good spots. You can spend all day here as there are between 50 and 70 minstrel groups performing, each a spectacular show on their own. I squeezed in between some people and got to watch a big part of the procession before the heat of the day got too much for me. The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, consists out of thousands of members of the Cape coloured community who are divided into several well-rehearsed minstrel troupes.

This yearly parade dates back to the mid-nineteenth century when the slaves in Cape Town were given one day off in the year (2 January). To celebrate, groups would dress up as minstrels, waving parasols, strumming banjos and making merry with music, dance and a parade from the District Six area through to the city centre. Many of the songs still sung today date back to the 1800s. Aside from honouring these classic tunes, repertoires are also laden with interpretations of modern pop songs to keep all ages entertained.

It is truly a vibrant and cheerful sight. An event every Cape-Tonian should attend at least once as it is part of the history and culture that formed cape Town.

 

Top 5 Reasons Why Street Art is Important

In the last couple of years I have come to appreciate street art. I now go out of my way to see street art and even go on street art walking tours if they are offered. There are so many reasons why people love street art and why it is becoming more popular or important for people of all walks of life. Street art is an important part of history and identity for many metropolises, and sometimes even has the ability to breathe life into communities.

People are starting to accept that the creative and talented people involved are seen as artists, not vandals. And that their work, however ‘urban’, is still worthy of being considered art. People are becoming more open-minded to urban and street art and appreciating where this art form has come from.

Here are the top reasons why Street art is important and why you should love street art.

1. Street art is freedom and diversity

Art is about expression, creativity, freedom, asking and raising questions, protesting, analysing and even beautifying. A way to step beyond convention. There’s freedom with putting work in the street. You don’t even need to be considered a ‘legitimate’ artist; don’t need to have thousands of fans, have a huge social media presence, be taken seriously by galleries or be picked up by an artist agency. all over the world.

Street art is a very diverse form of expression for people from all over the world. There are street artists in nearly every country in the world who are influenced and inspired by a multitude of cultures and styles. This has resulted in a wide and diverse body of urban or street art found all over the world.

2. Mystery &Intrigue

There are so many questions when you’re a street art lover! Who did it? Why did someone put this work there? What does it mean? Does it even mean anything?

But with the invention of Instagram it’s now easier than ever to find artists’ official profiles and learn more about their work and why they do what they do. But a lot of street artists prefer to remain anonymous or use aliases for both privacy and legal reasons. There are also still artists who don’t even tag their work so the intrigue and mystery lives on.

Woodstock, South-Africa, Street Art
Doing a street art walking tourn in Woodstock, South-Africa.

3. Political or Social Statements

Graffiti and street art has always had a history of being influenced by the present political and social issues. A lot of people have painted on the walls and buildings in their cities as a form of anonymous political protest.

Some political statements are quite controversial; scrawled illegally and boldly in various countries and for various reasons. When people feel they have no power or influence but want to express their anger, hatred or defiance towards political injustice, this kind of art happens. But it is still a peaceful kind of protest.

4. Colourful surroundings = Happier Life

Art in the street makes people happy and can cheer them up. Street art makes their day and their commute more interesting and adds character to what would otherwise just be grey and boring. Art reminds people to feel alive. It’s there to beautify a space. It wakes people up, inspires and motivates them. And sometimes it can make people think.

It may have some broader social commentary, or just be there to bring some chaos to the establishment. Street art takes the ‘normal’ and makes it a thousand times more interesting. Even if you live in poverty, there’s something about bright colors and beautiful art that seems to fill the area with a contagious, buoyant optimism.

5. Sense of Community 

Street art is important to keep urban areas and their residents energized and inspired. In some areas artists and building owners come together to foster the creation of artwork that can be viewed as beautifying and reviving a city, rather than destroying it.

In some cities independent graffiti murals are designed and implemented by artists with a personal connection to the neighborhood in which they are installed. In many of the cases these pieces are created with the permission of the building owner. This relationship can then help develop positive interactions between businesses and members of their community. It is a very cost-effective way both to keep surfaces free from vandalism and to create visual cues to residents that the place they call home is desirable.

Next time you travel somewhere, take some time to explore the street art of that city. You will undoubtedly be led of the normal tourist path, but I am sure you will be surprised by what you find.

Cape Town’s Castle of Good Hope

The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest surviving building in South Africa and has been the centre of civilian, political and military life in the Cape since 1666.

Lying beneath the imposing silhouette of the iconic Table Mountain, the Castle of Good Hope is a priceless piece of Cape History. To really get an authentic taste and grasp of the Mother City’s beginnings, this should be on every traveller’s to-see list.

Elephant at the watering-hole

“The journey not the arrival matters.” –T.S. Eliot

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

5 Reasons Why Nature is good for you

Recent studies show how important feeling part of nature is to our physical and mental health. I have personally found this to be quite true and think that a connection with nature makes us healthier and happier people. I always feel better or rejuvenated after spending some time out in nature.

Here are my top 5 reasons why nature is good for you.

( All of these photos were taken on a recent trip I went on to the Cape Point Nature Reserve. It is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.)

Cape Point Nature Reserve
Out in Nature at Cape Point Nature Reserve

1. Sunny Skies = Vitamin D, which Helps Your Body Function More Efficiently

While working sometimes a day or two passes without us actually stepping a foot outside. I try to work in a morning walk into my daily routine, to get some fresh air and hopefully some much needed sun. Vitamin D is crucial to humans, helping to prevent disease and infection and improving bone health. It can also elevate mood and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and more. Vitamin D also improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure by literally relaxing your blood vessels. And all we need to do to get more of this vitamin is to spend a bit more time out in the sun.

2. Natural Light Normalizes Your Sleep Schedule

Did you know that getting a good dose of sunlight can also help you feel refreshed and relaxed by helping regulate your body’s melatonin production? This is because the sunlight helps regulate Melatonin, a hormone that controls your body’s internal clock (basically, it makes you sleepy). I find that I have trouble falling asleep and suffer from insomnia if I don’t get enough sunlight for prolonged periods of time. Sunlight, especially in the morning, helps regulate your internal biological clock, making it much easier for you to get a good night’s sleep—and wake feeling rejuvenated.

3. Nature Changes Your Brain – For the Better

We all spend more time staring at the bluish glare of our laptop screens than we do appreciating a good sunrise. Spending time in nature is great for concentration, mood, and offers a general mental boost. Just strolling around outside doesn’t really require any elaborate thinking or action, which is great for your mind.

I find the sound of the ocean often puts me in a relaxed and meditative state. A walk in nature, produces calming and beneficial results for our brains making it easier to think clearly and concentrate on tasks.

Cape Point Nature Reserve
Cape Point is one of the country’s most popular tourist sites

4: Get some exercise. Become a Fitter, Healthier You

I’m a firm believer in the idea that nature is good for one’s health. Being out in nature often involves some form of physical activity, whether it be strolling through the park, biking through the mountains, or an exciting river raft ride. This activity both improves physical fitness and our overall health

While I’m out in nature, I usually notice a mixture of people, ranging from relaxed strollers to those who are hoping to burn calories or get fit. I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about nature—all the different ways that you can use it while you enjoy some beautiful scenery along the way.

5. Happiness!!

Let’s face it, being in nature just makes us all happier in general. The great outdoors changes brain chemistry in a positive way, improves mood, decreases stress, provides opportunities for fun, and is simply downright beautiful.

All this ends up making for a happier and, thus, healthier you.

Cape Point Nature Reserve
Even though on a clear day you feel as if you could see to Antarctica from Cape Point, it is at least 6,000 kilometres away.

Lazy Sunday walk in Cape Town

Whenever I go for a walk through the streets of cape Town on a Sunday morning I hardly see any people. The city feels deserted and alien compared to the busy, bustling city it becomes during the week.

The city of Cape Town seems to be ‘closed’ on a Sunday morning.

Kirstenbosch, the most beautiful garden in Africa

If you love gardens then Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden should be top of your list of gardens to visit in Africa. It has a reputation as the most beautiful garden in Africa and one of the great botanic gardens of the world. But I imagine that few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch set against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

I have visited this beautiful garden a couple of times now and each time I am amazed by the wide variety of the unique plant life of the Cape Flora, known as fynbos. Spring and summer is definitely my favourite time here as a lot of the fynbos is in bloom and the garden is filled with bright colours.

Which gardens do you love exploring?

Portrait of a lioness

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Glimpse of Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town,  is South Africa’s most-visited destination.  It is usually quite crowded, but Sundays are more managable and great for an afternoon of walking aound this harbour with all its shops and restaurants.

Welcome to Woodstock

Woodstock, South-Africa, street art walking tour
A beautiful piece done in a parkinglot of Woodstock, Cape Town in South-Africa. You can see Table Mountain peeking out in the background

Woodstock is definitely fast becoming known as Cape Town’s street art hotspot. The neighbourhood is adorned with pieces by both local and international artists, ranging in subject from social commentary to animal rights activism. Some have been around for years, while new ones are being added all the time.

Tour Guide: Street art

I am an avid art lover and in the past couple of years have come to learn about and appreciate street art. This is a small taste of the beautiful street art that the City of Cape town in South-Africa has to offer.

While you can absolutely take yourself on a street art walking tour of Woodstock, the experience is enriched with the correct context applied to each work.

Woodstock, South-Africa, street art walking tour
The regeneration of Woodstock comes in part thanks to the Woodstock street art project that began in 2009, where locals like our walking tour guide, decided to take art from its traditional setting indoors, to the great outdoors.

As you walk through the streets of Woodstock in Cape Town you will be amazed at the amount of street art you will find. It is quite difficult to choose a favourite artist or even a favourite piece of art. The best way to see the art and learn about the artists is to so a guided street art tour. I have now done this twice and would gladly do it again.

All the pieces here are done by the street artists Wayne BKS, of which Conform is but one of his aliases. He is South-African born and loves painting pieces with a minimalist African/south American feel.

Woodstock, South-Africa, street art walking tour
The success of the Woodstock street art project is evident in the vibrant atmosphere to be found in the streets and converted warehouses, which are filled with young professionals, urban hipsters and plenty of tourists.

What do you love about where you live?

Wordless Wednesday: Young Rhino

At birth, baby rhinos, which are called calves, are still quite big, at40 to 64 kg. And only 10 minutes after it appears it can already stand upright, a couple of hours later it begins to suck. The rhino calf is born without a horn. Its only protection comes from its mother, who seems to delight in caring for her new addition.  At around 3 years old, the calf will set out on its own.

Once they leave, they will go and find a territory of their own. This is not always easy, since rhinos do not share their territory with others. Therefore, the young rhino needs to be able to look after itself as it searches for territory, and to defend itself against other rhinos that want to compete for space.

Surrounded by a Pack of Lions

Shindzela tented safari lodge
The pride just chilling in the dry river bed

Lions are known as the king of the jungle. Something that doesn’t really make sense as there are no lions in a jungle. The thing that really scares me is that lions can reach speeds of up to 81 kph in short bursts. This was not a very soothing thought as we were surrounded by a pack of lions while on our safari.

We drove down into this riverbed following a lion or two and suddenly the whole pack came walking up the dry riverbed. The watched us a bit and then kept us in sight as they passed and surrounded us. One of the young lions even charged us a bit and looked like he wanted to leap up on to the vehicle.

I was amazed that the guide, which happened to be my younger brother, was still calmly taking photos and just enjoying this sight. It was amazing being this close to them but at the same time very very scary and I just wanted us to please back up and away before we got eaten. I didn’t know if I should be on the lookout or taking photos….and it felt like they were all watching us, just biding their time before they charged.

Two of the lions were fooling around, chasing each other and you could see the power in those paws as they swiped at each other. I didn’t even realise I was holding my breath until we were backed out of the dry river bed and at a safe distance from these majestic creatures again.

Rolling Dung-beetle

Timbavati Private Game Reserve
One of the interesting facts we learnt was that an elephant eats up to 300 kg per day, which means each elephant generates about 100kg of manure every day!!!

The African bush has so much to offer, from huge elephants to tiny dung-beetles. I love that everything in nature works in harmony. Out in the bush there is an ecosystem where everything is inter-dependent on everything else. Consequently there is no wasted time, energy or even dung as everything is connected.

One of the interesting facts we learnt was that an elephant eats up to 300 kg per day, which means each elephant generates about 100kg of manure every day!!! The elephant’s waste is a source of sustenance for the little Dung Beetles. They collect up the elephant dung into a ball and then roll it to a destination where they bury it. They then climb into the ball of dung with their mate and it is here where they reproduce. The dung beetle larva are then born inside this ball of dung.

This is such a classic example of how all the species within the bush are inter-dependent on each other for their survival. The dung-beetle depends on the elephants, the grasslands depend on the dung-beetle for sustenance during winter and so on.

I just love the harmony of nature.

Timbavati Private Game Reserve
The elephant’s waste is a source of sustenance for the little Dung Beetles.

Herd up close

We got really up close to a huge herd of Elephants. The herd approached us from the front and then walked past us. I am sure that if I really wanted to touch one of them I could have just reached out. It was amazing being surrounded by these beautiful majestic creatures and an experience I will always treasure.

Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups of related females called a herd. The herd is led by the oldest and often largest female in the herd, called a matriarch. Even though the elephant that walked right to us was a female, she was still extremely intimidating.

Herds consist of 8-100 individuals depending on terrain and family size. I did not count how many elephants were in this herd but I am sure it was more than 25. 

Timbavati Private Game Reserve
First glimpse of a tiny baby in this huge herd
Timbavati Private Game Reserve
The herd just kept on coming!

When a calf is born, it is raised and protected by the whole matriarchal herd. This small calf was safe between two females and they made sure that he did not venture close to us. Males leave the family unit between the ages of 12-15 and may lead solitary lives or live temporarily with other males.

Timbavati Private Game Reserve
The baby or calf is protected at all times

This was definitely one of the top amazing moments I had in the Timbavati.

Timbavati Private Game Reserve
Saying goodbye to this beautiful herd

Bachelor Elephant

Males will leave the herd as they become adolescent, around the age of 12, and live in temporary “bachelor herds” until they are mature enough to live alone.

Male elephants are normally solitary and move from herd to herd.

Birds of the Timbavati

This is a collection of some of the beautiful birds that I got to see in the Timbavati Nature Reserve. I was on Safari for 4 days at Shindzela Lodge and got to see some amazing animals.