Memories of my life in the bush – An evening with Mfezi, the snake.

Memories of my life in the bush.

I am starting a new category in which I will write up stories which have happened in the past which I would like to remember.

The first story that I would like to tell you is my evening indoors with a venomous snake.

In the year 2011 I moved to Hoedspruit to be closer to my then boyfriend, now husband, Gustav. In 2012 March we got married and were planning to move to the Free State together to start a new job as lodge and game ranch management couple. Shortly after our marriage, I have started moving my things to his house on a private nature reserve just outside town and had a lot of packing to do before the big move. He had to do some work in the Timbavati private nature reserve, so I was on my own for a few days.

On the first evening alone, around 20h00, I was busy moving stuff around and cleaning and there were boxes everywhere. I moved a box and heard a loud “shhhhhhhh!!!”. I realized it must be a snake. I slowly moved the box again and out slithered a snake. I only saw the strong muscled body, not the head and assumed it was a Mamba. Like a flash I was out of the door of the house.

Now I had a problem. First of all, my phone was inside and I was outside and I was parading around the house in skimpy pyjamas. There was no way I could go look for help from the staff on the farm, dressed as I was. Besides that, I knew that if I went to call the staff they would try and kill the snake. I prefer to keep snakes alive if I can, but I also imagined the snake biting one of the staff members and then I would have had more on my hands than just a snake. There was no other choice. I had to go back in, get dressed and call for help.

I knew the snake was just to the left of the door, so I figured if I go in really fast I can run, jump on the bed where my clothes were lying and get dressed. I made a run for it. Like a flash, I was on the bed and dressed while carefully eyeing the snake. It was lying still because it obviously got a fright with me running past it. I then phoned the owner of Khamai reptile park (Now called Kinyonga Reptile Park), Donald. A guy I knew would be able to come and remove the snake and relocate it, as him or his staff members often also helped at the guesthouse where I was working. He answered my phone call as I was eyeballing the snake which had now slowly started to move again. “Yes, no problem” he could come and help me, he was just finishing a talk at Mariepskop Primary school, he will be done in 10 minutes then he will leave. I quickly made calculations in my head. 40 Minutes drive from Mariepskop, 10 minutes talk… Oh dear, I am going to sit with this snake as company for an hour. As he was talking to me to get directions, the snakes head came in sight and I could see that it wasn’t a Mamba, maybe a Cobra of some sort. I knew that I would have to keep an eye on the snake at all times because if I lose it, I might have to make peace with sleeping in the same room as the snake. We ended the call and I tried to call my husband several times, angry with him for not having signal, like he could help it. I imagined him sitting next to a bushveld fire, laughing and having a great time with clients. It did not help. Then I phoned my mother, in Pretoria. Note to self: ‘Do not phone your mother 500 km from you when you are alone in the house with a snake, she will not know what to do.’

After that, I made peace with my aloneness with the snake and watched it moving through the room. I was now heading in my direction. No… this wasn’t working for me. I picked up a small broom and chucked it in the snakes direction. It spread a hood, agitated… so it was definitely a cobra, I thought. I then let it be. As the snake moved to one side, I moved to the other slowly watching it. Later, about 5 minutes before Donald arrived, the snake moved into a cupboard that had a large opening underneath the door. This was my chance, I jumped up and got a broom. When the snake tried to come out I gently pushed it back with the broom… Finally Donald, the snake handler and owner of the reptile park, arrived. “Are you scared of snakes?” he joked. “No, I just prefer not having them in my house.” I said.

He captured the snake, identified as a Mozambican Spitting Cobra and also known as Mfezi, effortlessly and took it away. I was able to go to bed and sleep without fear of a danger noodle in my bed. The snake was safely relocated in the bush the week after that.

Country People: Ontmoet Dominique Nel van die plaas Roomes, Luido, Mosambiek

This is the story of Domique and Rickus Nel who are running a Bonsmara cattle farm in the Govuro district just south of the Save river. You can follow their story or get into contact with them on their Facebook page: Roomes Mozambique Limitada

Dominique Nel het ‘n Bsc Agric veekunde graad wat sy aan die universiteit van Pretoria verwerf het. Sy en haar man Rickus woon in die Govuro provinsie in Mosambiek net suid van die Save rivier.

Sy sê: Ek kry nogal baie die vraag oor my werkstitel, dit is vir my die moeilikste om te beantwoord aangesien ek self nie altyd seker is nie! Ek dink boer/bestuurder is die mees omvattend antwoord. Omdat ons so geïsoleer bly moet jy regtig instaat wees om alles te kan doen, van trekker ry, ransoene formuleer tot rooiwater uitbrake stop as dit begin.

Vertel ons bietjie oor jouself, jou lewensverhaal, hoe het jul in Luido, Mosambiek opgeëindig?
Ek is baie groot diere liefhebber, maar nie jou tipiese honde en katte mens nie, my groot passie in die lewe is beeste! Ek het begin in die kraal werk op 12 jarige ouderdom saam met Dr Richard (wie ek tot vandag toe as een van my groot rolmodelle ag). Ek het toe begin droom om ‘n veearts te word. Ek het ongelukkig nie keuring gekry nie, wat eintlik beter uitgewerk het omdat ek meer geniet wat ek nou doen. Ek is nie uit SA uit oor enige rede behalwe die groot geleentheid wat ek gesien het die eerste keer toe ek saam my ouers die kremetart bome op die strand gaan kyk het nie! Tot my verbasing was daar meer aan Mosambiek as coconut bome en ‘n see! Die weiding is eenvoudig net amazing! My ouers het die plaas gekoop in 2010 en ontwikkeling begin. Ek en Rickus het elke vakansie op varsity opgekom en kom werk! Gelukkig het hy ook lief geraak vir die land en sy mense en in 2016 het ons die groot trek aangepak.

Wat is jou gunsteling gedeelte daarvan om hier te werk en te bly?

Dis vir my maklik, ek is mal oor die mosambiekse plaaslike mense en hulle sieninge oor die lewe! Die mense saam wie ek elke dag werk is my familie! Ons werk saam, sukkel saam, huil saam maar lag elke dag saam, al verstaan ons mekaar nie altyd nie!!

Hoe lyk jou tipiese dag?
Haha, my tipiese dag beplan ek die aand voor die tyd! Ek dink in SA bly het my baie bederf met die stiptelikheid en organisasie! Die tipiese dag hier loop min of meer so: In die oggende soek die wagters die beeste terwyl jy ry om brandstof te koop of drade te kyk of saam met die gemeenskap/regering of wie ookal te vergader. In die middae werk jy maar in die krale baie intensief met die beeste! Maar dit is ideaal en baie skaars! Die naaste vulstasie is 60km weg op n pad vol slaggate. Ons bly 2 ure weg vanaf Nova Mambone waar al ons vergaderings gebeur en dit vat ongeveer 2 ure net om om die plaas te ry om na die drade te kyk! Ons werksdae word ook lekker deurmekaar gegooi deur twee olifante! Ons is tans besig met herstel van 4 van ons kampe maar hulle is elke aand maar weer terug, hulle breek die drade en krale so my man is altyd besig… Ons dink baie aan planne om ons te help maar niks werk nie. Maar om die olifante te skiet is nie vir ons n opsie nie, hulle woon al jare in die bos hulle was eerste hier so ons werk maar om hulle!


Enige oulike stories om te deel? Die olifante was weer by ons op ‘n donderdagaand, die beeste het natuurlik gebruik gemaak van die geleentheid en buite begin wei. Ons het almal terug gejaag en al die getalle het geklop maar ons het bly spore in die pad kry van sowat 5 beeste. Ek en Rickus was maar deurmekaar, dalk is hulle van n ander kamp af of iets. Ons het na ete besluit ons en al die wagters gaan hierdie beeste se spore vat en hulle soek. Ons het opgedeel in groepe ek en Rickus het saam met Fransisco geloop, dit was so mooi die panne en kremetart bome waar mense heuning gaan haal en dan die grootste zebrahout bome! Teen laatmiddag het ek en Rickus, Fransisco verloor! Ons het nie een opgelet hoe ons gestap het nie en ons was verdwaal! Ons het nie n GPS of n selfoon gehad nie net ons twee iewers in die bos en op daai stadium was hier nog n rondloper leeu ook! Gelukkig het Samuel ons agtervolg en toe ons begin paniekerig raak, het hy gelag en ons terug gelei na die bakkie toe! Dit was nie vir my op daai stadium snaaks nie! Ons het toe die Saterdag weer verby die kamp gery om te kyk of ons die beeste sien, ons het hulle gekry maar dit was buffels!

Ter afsluiting: Ons het baie luukshede opgegee om hier te kom bly, baie vriende verloor en baie spesiale oomblikke gemis maar ons is gelukkig! Ons het vriende wat sout van die aarde mense is, mense wat jou opbou en lei! En ons het werkers wie ons respekteer en lekker meer werk, ons is deel van die Luido gemeenskap! Ek persoonlik voel as jou hart jou roep vir die meer challenging dele van Afrika, gryp dit aan! Nie elke dag is maklik nie en mens huil so af en toe maar dit is die moeite werd!

Jy kan Dominique en Rickus se doen en late volg op die Facebook blad: Roomes Mozambique Limitada

Tuesday Trailcam-takes: Exploring a new part of the farm…

I put my trail-camera up on another part of the farm, which I haven’t really explored yet. I found Porcupine dung on the way there, but the whole week my camera only captured a Common duiker twice and one Chacma baboon. Yesterday, just as I thought as must move my camera to a new spot I found three animals passed the trailcam the previous night. Some Bushpigs that aren’t really visible well, a Porcupine (finally!!) and it put up quite a parade and another Civet. It shows, sometimes you just need to have patience and a little bit of luck!

Enjoy my gallery of the weeks highlights below:

Thank you for popping in. Follow my blog for this and more country lifestyle stories from the Govuro district in Mozambique and Southern Africa.

Remember to join our Facebook group: Trailcamming in Southern Africa to see more awesome trailcam finds.

Cooking with Local food, Mozambique – Low-carb Ricotta Tart with Marula compote

I love experimenting with food & I love special diet recipes and bringing cultures together in a dish. This Ricotta tart brings African, Afrikaans and Dutch together in my Mozambican kitchen with homemade cheese and juice from local Marula fruit and Speculaas spices from the Netherlands.

You can substitute the Marula-compote for another fruit that you have access to or if they aren’t in season, fruits like figs and berries come to mind. Speculaas spices can be substituted with a general mix-spice.

This recipe is gluten-free and low-carb, but portion control is advised, as large servings might push you over your daily carb limit if you are still trying to lose weight.

Ingredients

For the base:

  • 180-gram ground almonds/almond flour
  • 5 ml Speculaas spice
  • 65-gram butter
  • 5 ml Xylitol sweetener

For the Filling:

  • 250-gram Ricotta Cheese (I used my own home-made cheese)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Xylitol sweetener
  • 1 Tablespoon of grated lemon peel
  • 75-gram chopped almonds
  • 10 ml Speculaas spice

For the Crust:

  • 6 Tablespoons of Coconut Flour
  • 1 tablespoon Xylitol
  • 5 ml cinnamon
  • 2 ml nutmeg
  • 60-gram butter

For the Compote:

  • 250ml Marula juice (Boil the green fruit in water until soft and drain through a cloth, like when you make Marula Jelly)
  • 2 shots of Whisky
  • 1/4 cup of Xylitol or more to taste

Method

Mix the Ground almonds, butter, Speculaas and xylitol and press into a 20cm greased spring-form pan. Put in the fridge.

Mix the compote ingredients, heat in a pan and let it simmer while stirring regularly until thick and sticky.

Preheat oven to 190°C.

Mix the ingredients for the filling and scoop it onto the base.

Mix the coconut flour, xylitol, spice and butter and carefully spread it over the filling. You will need to flatten small pieces in your hands and build an imperfect crust puzzle to cover the top. Bake for 15 minutes

Let it cool and top with almond shards.

Serve with fresh cream, lemon rind and mint leaves.

Tuesday Trailcam-Takes: Mammal finds of the week and a 6 months mammal-sightings list, Govuro, Mozambique.

It has been six months since we moved to this cattle farm in the Govuro District of Mozambique. I regularly try to post updates on my trailcam finds, but I have decided to make a list of the mammals I have either seen myself, or the trailcam picked up or other someone else on the farm has seen in the past six months. I have not yet properly identified bats and mice therefore they are not on the list. Any recommendations on comprehensive books to help me identify those are welcome.

Personally seen:

  • Slender Mongoose
  • Banded Mongoose
  • Tree Squirrel
  • Red Squirrel
  • Kudu
  • Njala
  • Impala
  • Grey Duiker
  • Baboon
  • Greater Galago /Thick-Tailed Bushbaby
  • Vervet Monkey
  • Staff members on the farm have seen an Elephant. An elephant or more than one elephant has been through the farm and neighbouring farms on several occasions before the rain.

Trailcam recordings:

  • Porcupine
  • Giant Rat
  • Springhare
  • Scrub hare
  • Grey Duiker
  • Nyala
  • Warthog
  • Bushpig
  • Banded Mongoose
  • Slender Mongoose
  • White-tailed Mongoose
  • Large Spotted Genet
  • African Wild Cat
  • African Civet
  • Greater Galago /Thick-Tailed Bushbaby

Below is my video with sightings of the week! Hope you enjoy 🙂

If you love trailcam-stories feel free to join our Facebook group: Trailcamming in Southern Africa, we are a fast growing Facebook group with footage from trail-cameras all over Southern Africa.

Sustainable Saturday – Meet Marlies Bron, the owner of one of Jozi’s newest Zero Waste stores.

Marlies Bron recently opened an online Zero-waste store: The Unwrapped‘ in Johannesburg. I contacted her for interview so you can get to know the person behind the store and hopefully further inspire you in the fight against waste.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Pretoria for the most part. My parents instilled a good dose of thriftiness into my upbringing (think boiling only enough water for the 2 cups of tea being made) and my dad had the most amazing veggie garden when I was younger. I mention this because I clearly remember rolling my eyes at it all and I couldn’t understand why you would want to grow your own veggies when you could buy them in a store. Now I probably wish I was more like them!
I’ve always loved being out in nature and I’ve had my fair share of adventures, but I think its the people I have met along the way, the conversations made, the examples they have been, that have had the biggest impact on my life. To not just enjoy the created world, but also take responsibility in looking after it. Living in a city again for the last 5 years does tend to put you a little out of touch with your environmental impact, however, the day it sunk in that recycling isn’t half as effective as I had dreamed it to be, was probably the day I started the slow journey to decrease my waste.


You recently opened a Zero-waste store in Johannesburg, how and why did you decide on this concept? I had been on a personal zero-waste journey for about a year and although certain changes had been easy, I was failing pretty miserably at reducing my grocery waste. I kept asking why there’s no zero-waste stores in Johannesburg, but then some friends threw the idea back at me and asked me “But if you’re so passionate about it, why don’t you do it?”. The idea has evolved and changed somewhat from planning a physical store to now running an online one. I’m very excited about the concept and as a mom of almost 3, its also a more manageable approach. Joburg is still in short supply of zero-waste options, and I’m really hopeful that the scene is going to explode in the coming years.

What can people expect from your store and is it only for Zero-wasters?
The focus of my store is to supply people with pantry foods free of single-use packaging, but I also have a selection of other zero-waste goodies to try and cover most aspects of waste-free living. I chose a glass jar deposit system because I feel strongly about reusing resources. It’s definitely not only for zero-wasters. I would love to reach out to the local community and regular shoppers like myself by making it accessible and affordable. I see the store as a platform to educate people about living more sustainably. Obviously, I’m finding that harder to do online than talking face-to-face, but we’re learning!

What would be your number one tip for aspiring Zero-wasters and people who want to make the amount of waste they create smaller?
Ah, there’s so many ways to tackle this journey! However, living in Joburg, I think it starts with an inner awareness of how consumer-driven we all have become. Without being a total kill-joy, start having conversations with yourself about the necessity of buying this or that. Be it that grab-and-go coffee, new clothes, another plastic toy for the kids… I guess I’m describing the ‘refuse’ of a zero-waste lifestyle. From there a world of swap-outs opens up! My tip here is to make changes one-by-one, starting with the more manageable and affordable ones first, like buying pantry foods from us… 😉 No, I’m actually thinking of easy swops like reusable shopping bags, always carrying around your own water bottle or coffee cup, using bamboo toothbrushes, natural soaps etc. Lastly, take a sniff through your dustbin and assess where most of your waste is coming from – there’s probably an alternative solution out there for it. Oh, and definitely join the Zero Waste Journey in Southern Africa group on Facebook – it is a wealth of information and I have found fellow zero-wasters to be extremely helpful and encouraging.


Marlies calls on us to be gentle on others and gentle on ourselves in this journey: “…when someone sees me buying a plastic-wrapped cucumber don’t view me as a complete traitor… going zero waste is a journey where we make choices based on our resources of time, money, availability of goods etc – which will differ from one person and place to the next. Its not helpful to yourself to be overly critical of every ‘misstep’ you make but rather enjoy and get good at the changes you can make.”


Where to find me: The Unwrapped

Facebook: theunwrappedco

Instagram : unwrapped_co

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Review of Eden Bay Eco Lodge, Vilanculos, Mozambique

My husband and I have been looking at accommodation options in Vilanculos for a while and this lodge kept attracting our attention. We eventually made our decision and took off for a weekend to Vilanculos at Eden Bay Eco Lodge.

High tide on the afternoon we arrived.

We arrived at Eden Bay just before sunset and settled into our safari-style camping tent. The staff were very welcoming and professional. We were happy to have our self-packed dinner on the deck and enjoy the magical view in the last light of the day. The lodge offers a full-board option as well, where all meals are included, but we decided not to book that this time around.

Paul, the owner of the lodge, also came to greet us and check on us personally, shortly after check-in.

The next day we woke up real early and could still have breakfast and coffee on our tent-deck overlooking the ocean before the rising sun became too bright. We enjoyed the walk-way to the beach and loved the lawn area right next to the beach. The walk to the beach was one of the first ones in a while that we could safely do barefoot. It is a clean path through natural dune vegetation and a soft sandy walk. The beach is ultimately my favourite beach. I have a tremendous soft spot for the Vilanculos area and beaches and the wave-less clear water gives it an on-land island feel. It is far enough from the Vilanculos town to be peaceful and quiet with hardly any other people around. It is also perfect for a toddler to play in the water as there are no waves.

Back from the beach, the front of the tent and the deck was too hot. We moved our chairs to the back of the tent on the lawn and sat in the shade of the tent and the indigenous trees. It was lovely to relax there and have some coffee. My daughter played in the sand around the trees so it was a win for all. Somewhere during the morning a staff member, came by and asked if we needed anything from town since he was on his way to get supplies. We really appreciated this as we needed some juice for my daughter which he brought back for us.

Kid Friendly? One of the reasons why we weren’t sure whether we should book here was because we were not sure how child-friendly it would be. We were pleasantly surprised. An extra bed with its own mosquito net was moved into the tent for our 2-year-old daughter. She is completely mobile, so the wooden walk-ways were no issue at all, but they might be an issue for a smaller child that has just started crawling or walking. There was plenty of grassy areas behind the tent where she could play when we weren’t at the beach.

Around lunch-time the tent-deck became bearable again and we had a cheese-board while admiring low-tide seascape.

In the evening we got a beautiful surprise, just as my daughter went to bed the chef came by and delivered a tasty crayfish. It was our wedding anniversary and they decided to spoil us.

Eco Lodge: The lodge’s electricity comes from solar panels. The entire structure is elevated and built on wooden-structures and wooden pathways makes the impact minimal. As much as possible of the natural vegetation was kept around the units.

Below is a gallery of what the area and the tents look like.


More spoils: On arrival our towels were folded in beautiful towel-origami swans on our bed. I did not take a picture of it, but the next day when I mentioned how much I loved it to the cleaning lady, she folded my towel into an elephant. Impressive stuff.

To sum it all up, we were absolutely bowled over by the fantastic service and lovely experience we had at this Eden Bay. Next time, we might take full board, but we will definitely book an island trip. Thank you to Paul and his team!

Feel free to follow Countrylivingsa.blog for more Mozambican, travel, Eco, outdoor-living and country stories from all over Southern Africa.

Tuesday Trailcam-Takes: Govuro Camera Trap update

It is time for my weekly trailcam update. I added a clip of two White-tailed mongoose which was recorded a while back, but somehow between memory cards it got lost and I refound it today. I love how you think the clip is over and suddenly another one appears! I went through my thousands of wind-triggered photos from the previous week and I found some pictures and a video of a Grey Duiker between them.

Another White-tailed mongoose makes me think that they are quite abundant here and then finishing off the weeks sightings with a Slender Mongoose.

Below is the video which I uploaded to my YouTube channel. Feel free to subscribe.

If you love Trail cameras, remote cameras, camera traps or whatever you want to call them, remember to join to our Facebook Group, Trailcamming in Southern Africa.

Sustainable Saturdays – 8 Gift ideas for a Greenie

Many people trying to live a more sustainable life suggests to quit giving gifts, but what if gifts are your love language? Sometimes we just want to give something to show our love. Gifts don’t have to be wasteful, consumeristic items wrapped in plastic and handed over with big balloons.

Here are some ideas for gifts that won’t hurt the planet or feed the monster.

  • 1. Firstly, you could ask them if there is anything that they want. “It’s your birthday/Christmas/your wedding soon, is there anything on your wish-list?” Your risk of wasting is the lowest by just asking… If they say nothing please and you still feel like giving or if you would like to keep it a surprise move-on to the next ideas.
  • 2.Gift them heirloom vegetable seeds. Those pepper seeds that your grandmother grew with great success year-after-after year or that special bean variety that you got from a friend. If you don’t own any awesome heirloom seeds, there are companies that specifically sell seeds that have been passed on with generations.
Yard Bean seeds I got from a friend.
  • 3. Give them a virtual voucher to their favourite sustainable-living store. On their special day give them a hug and say “I have sent you a mail.” That way they can stock up on exactly what they want or need and nothing gets wasted, not even printed voucher paper.
  • 4. Give an indigenous or fruit tree. Indigenous because they are water-friendly and pro-animal life or fruit because growing food is never a bad idea. Even if they live in a small or rented apartment, greenies find great pleasure in planting trees everywhere. Last week my husband arrived home with a couple of Cashew trees on the back of his vehicle. We don’t own the property where we live and who knows if we will ever get the chance to eat those cashews, but what an awesome gift and someone will surely enjoy them one day.
  • 5. Donate money to a charity of their choice and tell them. Maybe they have a particular soft spot for the local animal shelter, alley-cat initiative or waste-food soup kitchen, ask them and spread the happiness.
  • 6. Gift an awesome experience. Just yesterday I saw a Facebook friend and his wife enjoying a river-tubing experience that was gifted to them on their wedding. What a fantastic idea. Gift someone a ticket to concert or book an adventure there are so many options available.
Here are Peter Rodda and his wife Lizani enjoying their wedding gift!
  • 7. Gift them your time. Make time to do something with them. It could be however big or small you wish. Go take a bread-baking course, have coffee at their favourite restaurant or go away for a weekend.
  • 8. Do an act of service. Wash their car, cook their favourite meal or offer to drive them to work for a week (fuel is expensive these days).

Do you have more ideas for sustainable gifts? Please leave them in the comment section.