Caracal

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Caracal last won the day on December 4 2014

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  1. How right you are and what an apt description @gatoratlarge. I've been enjoying this report and your wonderful sightings in Tswalu and now you've reached a favourite spot of mine. Looking forward to an update on KaingU and the folks there and hearing all about your experience in and impressions of Kafue in October. Be warned Kafue can become addictive! PS Thanks @marg for alerting me to the sighting of a gator cap! I had no idea what it was or signified but a quick internet search has solved things for me!
  2. MAHALAPYE JIVE By SHEILAH CANGLEY During the forties it was just a siding where the engine took on water but nevertheless the southbound mail train from Bulawayo always stopped for about an hour at Mahalapye in Bechuanaland. It was the done thing to alight from the train and wander over to the outside dance floor. It was made of polished concrete in a large circle and was surrounded by a string of coloured lights. The late afternoon sun slanted through thin trees as the passengers looked over the 78 records for the windup gramophone. The refreshment room and bar were conveniently close to the dance floor and soon the sounds of jive rang out as people started to circle the floor. Early diners could look out of the wide windows of the dining car at the mixed bag of dancers as they swirled and turned in time to the music. There was a surprisingly up to date collection of music including the latest war time songs. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy was a hot favourite and it’s a wonder the old 78 record didn’t wear out as it was played so often. As schoolgirls on the way back to school at Cape Town Ann Roselli and I had a wonderful time as we both loved to dance and had the advantage of learning ballroom dancing at school. We knew all the latest steps and were eager to put them into practice. After a while dancers’ feet began to get sore from the unforgiving concrete and one by one dancers left the floor and climbed back onto the train. I was not one of them and only reluctantly left at the very last minute as the engine driver was growing impatient and the guard was scowling and advancing towards me in a menacing fashion. I had no partner towards the end as Ann got tired but I danced to my own rhythm lost in my own world on the makeshift little dance floor surrounded by coloured lights as the night closed in around Mahalapye. There were the usual group of urchins selling small very sour oranges and as there were no niceties such as paper bags people had to juggle oranges in their hands while climbing on board again. I am afraid many got lost under the train or were seized by the vendors to be sold to the next lot of passengers! As always in Africa the dark comes swiftly and by the time the guard’s whistle went it was nightfall. The northbound train arrived in Mahalapye in the early hours of the morning so it was only on the southbound journeys that we danced. The nuns luckily had never heard of Mahalapye and the frivolities of the dance floor! I recently found an old photograph of the station at Mahalapye on the internet. The Refreshment Room and Bar are there but no sign of the dance floor, maybe that came later. There are a couple of ancient cars on the gravel and groups of people standing around, the women in summer dresses with hats and parasols. It was a strange sensation looking at that old photo so familiar in many ways. Those days are long gone, but the trains still pass through but whether there is time to dance or not I do not know. I have danced in many places big hotel ballrooms, private houses, on board ship, in city halls, in Cape Town, Bulawayo, in country clubs, at hunt balls, and fashionable night clubs in London but nothing matches those fun-filled, hour long, joyful evenings at a siding in the middle of remote backward Bechuanaland. © 2017 Sheilah M Cangley
  3. This is too much - whilst typing my #29 reply you've sneaked in a pangolin! plus more lovely sightings including baby oryx, a jackal, more eland etc plus a nice landscape
  4. A fascinating report @Kitsafari and I can understand why you'll always cherish that time spent with what looks to be a meerkat fanclub. What wonderful sightings including mention of a caracal seen nearby I see! plus aardwolf and a zorilla! @Tom Kellie needs to be told of that I think @offshorebirder!
  5. @Ginny - It's quite a while since I've visited SLNP ( my favourite camps being Kaingo and Nsefu) so others can provide more recent advice for that park. However Kafue is nowadays my favourite park which I've visited 5 times and I would certainly recommend including Nanzhila and KaingU. Nanzhila is in the southern section of the park and is excellent for antelope including sable, roan, kudu, oribi, waterbuck reedbuck and more. Elephants are regular visitors to the camp and whilst there are no guarantees I have seen cheetah, wilddog, wildcat, leopard, serval and lion there. The other day I received an email from the camp with a video of a cheetah with 6 cubs. The camp is well situated overlooking a dambo and Steve Smith the owner has a great love and knowledge of the park. KaingU is another favourite and provides an excellent contrast being situated right on the banks of a magnificent stretch of the Kafue which flows swiftly past islands and granite boulders. So there you have options of boat trips as well as game drives and walks. A great team including @KaingU Lodge run this delightful camp. I booked directly with both camps for my visit last year. You're welcome to PM me if you think I can help with any further advice on Kafue.
  6. More stunning photos for us to enjoy and I especially like that silhouette of the impala with that beautiful sky. Am intrigued to know what that Tawny's captured. Can't decide what it is. Guess I'll have to wait a while to find out as you're about to head off. Have a great time.
  7. @Whyone?, @Geoff, @Sangeeta, @Kitsafari - your positive responses are much appreciated giving Sheilah both a boost and encouragement to continue putting more of her stories into writing. Hope to post another story fairly soon but in the meantime thought I’d add here an incident that I had posted elsewhere on Safaritalk. Adding it here will keep things together:- Roger Chilanga A while back Sheilah was showing me a couple of small silver heirlooms and started laughing when commenting they were tarnished and needed a clean. She recalled an incident when she and Paddy were living in Kitwe, Northern Rhodesia back in the 1950s. Sheilah walked into the kitchen of their Kitwe home and was horrified to find their loyal and much loved Roger Chilanga cleaning the family silver with Vim (an abrasive cleaning powder). Sheilah said “Oh no Roger you mustn’t use Vim. Roger that spoon you’re cleaning is silver and it’s 200 years old.” Roger looking thoughtful and concerned replied:- “It must be time for Madam to get a new one.”
  8. A TRIBUTE TO “COOKIE” By SHEILAH CANGLEY Joseph/Yusef was his name but he was always known as “Cookie”. He came from the Abercorn district of Northern Rhodesia and must have had Arab blood in him as he was a Muslim and had a very hooked nose and a heavy beard – unusual in an African. His domain was the hot, dark outside kitchen where he presided over a sulky Dover Stove. He coaxed the stove into life every morning in order to make early morning tea for the Bwana and the Dona. He was extremely skilled at conjuring up palatable meals at very short notice: for example my parents might meet some of their friends at the Mazabuka Golf Club or the tennis courts next to the Railway Station. After a hard afternoon of exercise they would invite friends back to take “pot-luck” at 8pm after their baths in their own houses. Cookie would be summoned by my mother upon her return and told “Cookie, Bwana so and so is coming to dinner tonight – make some soda bread quickly – we will have some soup, mutton cutlets and fruit fool maybe mango and mulberry – oh, and Cookie tell Samiyoba (the houseboy) to set the table and put frangipani flowers in the finger bowls and don’t forget the quinine tablets on the sundowner tray – hurry now Cookie you have a lot to do.” Poor fellow! He didn’t have much time for family life with his wife and several children. He was always spotless in a long white “Kanza”, apron and chef’s cap all made by my mother on her ancient sewing machine. Dinner over, at last Cookie could relax and seeing that the kitchen hand had finished washing up in a battered enamel basin (often smashing china as he went) he would pick up the “bulala” lamp and wend his way back to his “kia” in the compound. Often it would be 10pm before he finished and he then had to be up at 5.30 the next morning. Every morning after breakfast my mother would open the pantry door and distribute the rations for the day – soap, candles, matches, sugar and jam and all ingredients for cakes, pastry, savouries, sandwiches would be his to use , plus his own rations. Meat and mealie-meal were kept at the Research Station. The pantry door was then locked and no more rations were available until the next morning. My mother was very methodical and “ran a tight ship”. The only thing that occasionally went missing was sugar as Africans have a very sweet tooth. Whisky, gin, valuables were all perfectly safe but my father did lock up the top drawer of his chest of drawers in his dressing room. All ammunition and cartridges were kept there but the empty guns (all six of them) were kept in the corridor leading from the front verandah to the back verandah. Every year my father went away on “ulendo” to Kenya and Tanganyika. He travelled up The Great North Road over abominable rutted dusty tracks visiting his opposite numbers in Tanganyika and Kenya. The preparations for this trip were enormous. First of all the “scoff” boxes were laid out on the big back verandah. There were tins of butter, tins of powdered milk, condiments, bottles of camp coffee, marmalade, tea, matches, lamps, torches, snake bite antidote, flour, whisky, gin, beer and a soda syphon for the Bwana’s sundowners, quinine tablets in the big medicine chest plus bandages, iodine and a bottle of chloroform. My father was often asked to diagnose and treat the local Africans but he did baulk at difficult cases of childbirth in case either mother or child died. He sometimes transported the labouring woman to the nearest Mission Station or hospital. The woman would be loaded onto the back of the vanette along with an aged crone/midwife and the woman’s husband. Once at the hospital the patient would be handed over to the nurse. Once in Choma – no hospital – he had to hold the bottle of chloroform over the patient’s nose and give him another whiff if he started coming to. He was a man of many parts and lived in a time and place where resourcefulness, courage and leadership were highly prized. When they stopped to camp about 4 in the afternoon the scoff box – a green wooden case with JPA Morris in white letters was offloaded- tents were put up, firewood collected and camp chairs and a tin bath tub set up. The Bwana (my father) often set out to shoot for the pot returning with a brace of guineafowl or a small buck for “nyama” for the porters. Eggs and chickens were obtained from the nearest village in exchange for sugar or soap or cloth. Halycon days they were for my father who detested paperwork and red tape. He always got on well with the Governors Sir Ronald Storrs, Hubert Young, Maybin and John Waddington. Both Storrs and Young are mentioned in Lawrence of Arabia’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Storrs was a classical scholar and Young a fine pianist – men of education and culture devoted to their respective callings and fiercely loyal to the Crown. My father’s stretcher, sleeping bag and “rookie chair” (canvas with wooden poles threaded through loops) all dated back to his days in India and Afghanistan. A separate suitcase held Khaki shorts and long trousers, Khaki shirts, a very warm jersey, boots and even shoe polish! Shaving kit, and a sponge bag plus a lovely little mirror edged with wood which hung on a nail in the tent. There was even a dinner jacket and starched shirt included all ready for Nairobi and the Norfolk hotel. One year when I was away at school my mother went with him. She loved the trip although not really an outdoor person but she had my father to look after her and teach her something of the African wild. They met up with some Americans one year who gave them a Petromax lamp which gave out a powerful light and an equally powerful smell of petrol. The other lamp used paraffin and had an equally powerful smell rather more pleasant than petrol. The Americans also bequeathed an enormous thermos flask with a cork lid. Paddy and I used it in Beira in 1958 and it was a godsend. I have wandered off the subject of Cookie. His signature dishes were drop scones (flapjacks), roast duck, roast guineafowl, bacon and eggs and Irish Soda Bread – the houseboy had to cook bacon etc as Cookie’s religion forbade him to touch pig. My nightly suppers consisted of grilled tomatoes, bread and butter and boiled milk all prepared by Cookie and served in the darkened dining room on a side table with a pixie lamp for illumination. Later when I was older I was sometimes allowed to stay up for dinner if my parents were alone or had very close friends with them. Otherwise I was packed off to bed to lie awake listening to the chatter and laughter coming from the dining room. It was lonely in the bedroom and very dark and quiet – many years later when I had children of my own I understood why they would appear at the door of the sitting room saying they couldn’t go to sleep or wanted a drink of water. Such temptation to see what was happening with the guests who all seemed to be immensely tall and smiling. My parents entertained a great deal partly because it was expected of them and partly due to their dual Irish heritage of open house and responsibility. The local hotel “The Mazabuka Arms” was a grubby place owned and managed by an unwashed man called “Stinky” Tribe. My father often invited visitors to Mazanuka to come out to the Research Station and stay with us. “My wife will look after you” he would say and sure enough she did – no trouble at all: a “kalata” would be sent down to our house by messenger telling my mother that so and so would be arriving by train at such and such an hour and would be staying 1/3 nights; as there were seven servants to do my mother’s bidding there was no rush or haste. Beds would be made up and spare rooms checked down to the last detail. My mother’s desk was an elegant little piece of furniture, unlike the clumsy but durable P.W.D. issue of chairs, sofas etc, there was always a vase of flowers and a calendar on the desk. Every three months a long list of household necessities would be compiled and sent off to Haddon and Sly in Bulawayo. The goods were sent by train and woe betide you if you forgot to order the Colman’s Mustard. My father ate huge quantities of it – a legacy of his days in India. Mazabuka boasted a couple of Indian stores and Fischer’s Store run by a super efficient Jew who always had a pencil tucked behind his ear. My mother ordered whisky and cigarettes from him. Cookie would cycle into Mazabuka three times a week to fetch meat which came down from Lusaka by train. There was a small tin bath strapped onto the back of the bicycle where the meat swilled around in icy water with blocks of ice and hessian. There were scrawny chickens pecking away in the big back garden, paw paw, mulberry and mango trees and vegetables came from a small enclosed garden with a wind mill. Every drop of water for the house and garden had to be carried from the well across the road by the gardeners. They had paraffin tins on yokes and the water sloshed all over the place. The ‘Rhodesian boiler” had to be constantly topped up with water and all the bath water flowed out onto the mulberry trees. They thrived on the soapy slimy water. The gardeners toiled from morning to night carrying water – they were very low down on the caste system and were usually hefty smiling fellows without a great many brains. Our weekly newspaper “The Bulawayo Chronicle” was delivered by light plane (RANA). Reg Bourlay was a friend of my father and gave me my first taste of the thrill of air travel. I must have been about five or six and can clearly remember going up in a puss moth with my father and seeing the trees get smaller and smaller. I have always loved aeroplanes after that first experience and have flown many thousands of miles in my long life. The furled up newspaper was dropped into the side garden where we were having afternoon tea and usually hit the ground in a flower bed but occasionally hit the tray sending china/sandwiches/cakes flying but usually the pilot’s aim was good. Once again I have wandered away from Cookie I’m afraid but I can never remember seeing him in the house other than on the back verandah waiting for the pantry to be opened. The houseboy brought tea trays and served at table. Cookie’s kingdom was the kitchen with all its drawbacks and what an uncomfortable place it must have been – very dark, extremely hot with the Dover Stove taking up a great deal of space, one small window and a few shelves for pots and pans. I can’t remember where china was kept – my mother had some fine china and glass and decanters. Cookie ate his meals separately from the other servants and being a Muslim he must have prayed five times a day – that I don’t remember but I do recall scoldings for going into the kitchen and disturbing the culinary efforts taking place there sometimes causing Cookie to complain to my mother “The Mwana is very naughty!” When we left Mazabuka Cookie returned to his village where he found an Indian trader who could read and write (Cookie was illiterate). My father received a rather sad letter which opened with the following phrase “You are my father and my mother” I think my father was a very fair employer and he replied promptly but the correspondence petered out and that was the end of an era. All this was a very long time ago but being blessed with a good memory it is as if it happened yesterday for me. Farewell Cookie – you were a good and faithful servant so well done and Hamba Gahle Footnotes:- “Bulala” = Hurricane Lamp “kia” = Native Hut “ulendo” = Safari “kalata” = A written note P.W.D. = Public Works Department Hamba Gahle pronounced Hamba Gashli = Go well , Go softly or similar © 2017 Sheilah M Cangley
  9. I reckon you thrive on tough challenges @Atravelynn! Sheilah's paintings are of flowers and plants - they are quite intricate and beautiful - when asked about paintings from Africa she said that paintings of wildlife are too demanding and difficult for her. I doubt if that's so. Yes her father was a vet but no she didn't keep detailed diaries - other than one when she was 16 and a travel journal when she and her husband toured the States in 1966. If you stay on board and read "A Tribute to Cookie" - it's all her writing from her incredible memory. I suggested to Sheilah that she join Safaritalk and then she could post her stories herself but she prefers to do this through me. Hope you and others enjoy it
  10. Never having seen nyala I hadn't realised that the females have their own very attractive markings and colouring as shown in post #30. The palm nut vulture is a rare sighting. I remember the excitement of the guide when seeing one years ago in South Luangwa. I have found this a fascinating and very informative report @AfricIan learning more about Malawi's wildlife nowadays, the parks and camps, and also enjoying the landscapes and scenery and street scenes with the "widest load" etc. Thank you. You've really got me thinking it's time for a return after my all too brief visit in 2000.
  11. I haven't visited the Lower Zambezi NP but your most enjoyable report @deano has provided me with a great introduction - that engaging commentary interweaving so well with those lovely photos and videos of the wildlife, landscapes, riverines and safari camps. Thanks. PS I flunked your quiz! Nearly saved by the bell knowing immediately film, book and author of " I had a farm in Africa" but nowhere near an overall pass I'm afraid!
  12. Keep "wriggling on" @Geoff before you leave - but where to this time?
  13. All great shots @Geoff - I particularly like the francolin close up and that striking White-backed Vulture with its superb wingspan.
  14. @Kitsafari, @panamaleo, @Atravelynn, so pleased you've enjoyed Sheilah's story - I know she'll be delighted to know this which will be a boost for her to continue with more recollections that are in the pipeline in between her paintings and other hobbies and interests. Her memory is phenomenal and puts mine to shame! @Atravelynn - your challenge is to fit "pepperwortel sos" into your next Trip Report. With your ingenuity that shouldn't be a problem and I'll be looking out for it!
  15. SHEILAH'S HOMECOMING Part 2 One of the dried up rivers the Shashi today produces hundreds of gallons an hour from underground water. Lobatsi and Gaberones were dusty clusters of small buildings and a few tumbledown huts. The hours passed and night fell, and only one more sleep before I was in Rhodesia. The border between the two countries had the memorable name of Ramatlabama which trips off the tongue very easily. Bulawayo was not far off as I reeled off the names of the sidings and stations. Syringa, Marula, Plumtree and Figtree. At last we were rounding the bend into one of the longest station platforms in the world, that of Bulawayo. The porters stood on the platform scanning the carriages for custom, passengers disembarked, relations and friends called out greetings. Once again my efficient father had arranged for a man from the veterinary department to meet me and I was directed to the Victoria Falls train now travelling with Rhodesia railways. We left Bulawayo around midday. I had a seat in a compartment with two women who ignored me completely and complained bitterly about everything. However now that my journey was almost over I didn’t care and escaped once more to the dining saloon to drink lemonade. As we drew nearer to Wankie I found an old coach which had tip up wooden seats outside the main carriage. It was noisy and hot and I had to brave the sliding plates which connected the coaches, but it was an excellent place to sit and look out at the bush which was beginning to stir faint memories within me. As we left the mica hills of Wankie behind the train wound in and out of cuttings and we began to drop down into the Zambezi valley which at 2,000 feet as opposed to 4,000 on the plateau, was hotter and closer in atmosphere. I watched the sun get lower in the west its rays warming the colours of the msasa trees. Dusk came swiftly as it always does in Africa and it soon became too dark to see much, besides which insects were out in full force buzzing and stinging. Before I knew what was happening we had arrived at the Victoria Falls station which is a well kept and attractive one with steps leading from the platform down to the portico of the Falls hotel. At this time of the evening the station was quiet and deserted. After about a quarter of an hour we slipped out of the station and slowly moved down towards the bridge. The air became a little cooler and there was a feeling of damp in the air. I could smell wet foliage from the rain forest and damp earthy smells from the soil. As it was now quite dark I could not see a great deal but as we got out into the middle of the bridge I could feel spray on my face as we inched across the bridge. Being the hot weather there was less water coming over the falls but it was still impressive and I could feel faint vibrations in the air. Worn out with travelling and heat I fell asleep during the short seven mile stretch to Livingstone and only woke when the train slowed down and steamed into the station. I saw the tall lights surrounded by clouds of flying insects and watched railway men down on the knee tapping the wheels for hot boxes. I never learnt exactly what a hotbox is but think it was something potentially dangerous. My mother was standing on the platform and overjoyed to see her dirty tired and touselled daughter. Somewhere along the line I had been bitten by a vicious insect and now had a very painful and infected cheek. We were staying with friends for a couple of days and it was just as well as I had to have medical attention for the bite. There were poultices with a putty like substance called antiphilogistine, they had to be heated and clapped on the offending eruption. It was very sore. My father arrived two days afterwards and by then I was well enough to travel home. We set out early one morning in the big Chevrolet which was comfortable but let in a lot of dust. By noon we had reached Choma where we visited yet another friend of my parents, a captain Campbell who appeared to me to be very old and rather eccentric. We had lunch in a small dark dining room and after a short siesta set out again. This time there was only one stop, at the house of a stock inspector called Hartenzburg. My father had decided to take the back road to the Research Station, when we reached Mazabuka. The road wound past the Nielsons farm, more friends of my parents. Alec was a soldier settler and Muriel a schoolmistress at the Codrington School. We often visited them, usually at a weekend, and I always enjoyed collecting from the hen boxes and watering the sweet scented petunias in the garden. Another exciting detail to remember was having to leave our car on the side of the drift, crossing the drift in a sort of breeches buoy contraption and driving to the farmstead in a dilapidated old ford. All this in case of a thunderstorm and the possibility of a flood in the drift sweeping all before it. These sudden floods were very dangerous and could destroy cars and the occupants in a few seconds. We came to the well where the African women gathered daily to draw water – with children strapped to their backs and clad in missionary blue they made a wonderful sight as they swung the heavy paraffin tins full of water up onto their heads in one graceful movement. They steadied themselves and with a toddler clutching at their skirts and water splashing out of the tin they moved away slowly their heads held high, straight backs and swaying hips. Now we were passing the tobacco barns where my father’s Persian rugs were stored when my parents were on leave. Sewn into canvas they were protected from moth and beetle by showers of black pepper cinnamon and cloves. When they were unwrapped after six months or so they were shaken well giving everyone fits of sneezing. Now we could see the lights on the verandah from the bulala (hurricane) lamps. They were held aloft by Cookie and Samiyoba the head house servant. Now I was really home after almost four years, home to my own bed with its mosquito net, home to familiar food paw paw for breakfast, the sweet scent of wood smoke coming from the kitchen, home to Sally the pony and all the other animals at the research station. Even the absence of old Wilfred our beloved pointer could not spoil things for me. Now it was time to go to bed, listen to the night noises and my parents’ quiet voices and fall asleep. Home, the best homecoming of my whole life.

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