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A Judge Decided by Helen Fenwick

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Act of 1996 is a unilateral treaty which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international borders. Its main objective is to enforce rights of custody over a child or children who have been wrongfully removed or kept in a foreign country in breach of those rights and to secure their prompt return to the country where the child or children habitually reside.

In the story I have written a judge must decide the future of two very young boys caught up in the complications of this law.

In our modern world divorce is a reality for many couples. But when one parent is in one country and the other in another sharing custody of the children can become the focus of a bitter battle. Who ought to have the children? Should it automatically be the mother? Why not, the good father?

”A Judge Decided” is a fictionalised story based on some true events.

It is available for purchase from Eloise of Sonopuitgewers for R250,00 plus shipping. If you wish to purchase a copy, please email her with your details and she will quote you the final price.

Contact me @ fenwickh@jebomail.co.za

or

info@sonopuitgewers.co.za

A JUDGE DECIDED – A LITERARY EVALUATION by Pierre Massyn

Child custody – a topic often avoided, but when discussed, one that inevitably leads to heated debate; a controversial subject since King Solomon and his verdict on the rightful custodian of the disputed child.

Families are known, not only to divide, but to split because of the issue of child custody. Now Helen Fenwick examines in depth this contentious topic in her gripping new book, A judge Decided.

Written with circumspection and great sensitivity, Fenwick deftly interweaves other underlying issues of parent separation and third party involvement.

A Judge Decided is not only a remarkable legal case study based on true events, it exposes the human face of the dramatis personae in a deteriorating relationship.  In her groundbreaking work, Fenwick casts the reader into the roles of parents and children alike –  the latter caught between two counter poles. Central to the sub-plot of a husband substituting his loyal wife for another woman, is the presence of a mother pining for her children.

Written in the present tense, the book is refreshingly candid and characterised by  rare-found honesty, expressed in engaging dialogue between the characters.

Always hovering in the background, in another dimension,  is Leigh’s mother – her spirit guide who acts as mentor and counselor. Carey appears in the form of a bird – a heron, a sparrow, an owl –  to comfort both Leigh and Penny.

The author successfully portrays and explains bewilderingly legal issues, such as custody of the central character’s children in a disarmingly honest way. Her style is loose and pragmatic, and she paints her narrative in a flowing and easy way.  Enshrined in  the issue of custody, is The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Act 72 of 1996. Helen Fenwick not only untangles this complex legal web, but presents it to the critical reader in a palatable and credible way.  

At the risk of spoiling the reader’s potential enjoyment of this excellent work, I shall restrict myself to saying that the tension builds up palpably up to the point where the judge finally has to give his verdict. Will the forces of good prevail?

The print and layout is pleasing and attractive and Eloise Krige’s Sonop Uitgewers deserves a commendation for a job well done.

In conclusion:  A book dealing with the topic of A Judge Decided is long overdue and will be thoroughly appreciated by parents and individuals of all ages world-wide. Rating: *****

Gecko 81 at Addo – Day 7 and 8

Sunday 12 June 2022A word about the park

Addo Elephant Park was established in 1931 but did not include all the sections that we are now privileged to be able to visit. It is now the third-largest national park in South Africa after Kruger and Kgalagadi. Originally Addo was established to protect the last 11 remaining elephants in the area. It is now home to over 600 elephants. Most female African elephants have tusks but many of the Addo females do not. This is because of inbreeding but since the introduction of new herds, some of the female babies are now sprouting tusks. Addo Elephant National Park includes a marine reserve and so one in fact can see The Big 7 if one visits all of it. The Big 7 are Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino, Elephant, Great White Shark and Southern Right Whale.

Addo is really a lovely park. When we arrived, the road from Colchester Gate was in need of grading and we were delighted to see that the next day the grader was hard at work – not easy as there hasn’t been much rain for ages. The caravan park is well-maintained and the ablutions are kept beautifully clean and neat.

We had dinner at the Cattle Baron on Friday night and the service was friendly and efficient. The chateaubriand which Earl and I had was to die for! Jim enjoyed his Pepper Steak and Maureen had no complaints about her hake and calamari platter. All dishes are served with complementary butternut and creamed spinach for the table and a choice of baby potatoes, rice, chips or salad.

Friday 10 June 2022Two Lovely Drives

We only left camp at 9:30 this morning and did the roads in the northern part of the park stopping at Carol’s Rest for our breakfast break. We returned to camp around midday and then went toward the southern part of the park in the afternoon.

Red-knobbed coot and chick seen from the lookout over Domkrag Dam
This Bar-throated Apalis was active in the spekboom too.
It was great to spot a steenbok too. We haven’t seen many of them in the park.
Some with tusks and some without
This mama has a really healthy pair
Way in the distance we spotted a Denham’s Bustard
All our usual friends were busy all over the park
Kudu version of a selfie pout?
What gorgeous girls we are
Are the guys coming?
A courting couple?
Don’t you love my handsome horns?
Enjoying a nap in the sun
A Capped Wheatear entertained us at Carol’s Rest
And a couple of Namaqua Doves tried to hide from us.
Earl captured this Red-Capped Lark beautifully
Marion Barree Waterhole
Wonderful warthog family
We hadn’t seen many birds of prey so it was great to spot this Jackal Buzzard
Lismore Waterhole
Two handsome buffalo – If you look carefully you can see an ox-pecker on the back of the one on the left.
A Warthog having fun
Dark-capped Bulbul
Singing joyfully
A Common Fiscal and Cape Glossy Starling having a chat
Pale Chanting Goshawk

Saturday 11 June 2022Farewell to Addo

We were packed up and ready to leave by 8:15 and exited through the Colchester Gate at around 9:30. This whole week we had not seen large herds of buffalo nor had we spotted a jackal. Today made up for it.

Part of quite a large herd
One of the several babies posed for us
Thanks, Jackie Jackal for bidding us farewell

It was once again a stunning day. We stopped at The Windfarm for breakfast and arrived in Plettenberg Bay at 13:15. We are now spending the weekend with the kids and will make our way back to Struisbaai on Monday.

Thank you for following along and thanks to all the Gecko Group members who commented on Whatsapp. I love sharing our adventures with you all.

Gecko 81 at Addo – Day 6

Thursday, 09 June 2022

Late yesterday afternoon after I had posted my blog the Earl and I went for a walk to the camp waterhole and were pleased to find elephants there.

Addo Camp Water Hole
Our lovely men braaing out dinner last night

Today was a slow day.  We only got up after 8 am and decided to spend the morning in camp.  We went to the camp restaurant, The Cattle Baron, for breakfast.  We both had the sunrise – scrambled eggs, bacon, rosti and tomato reasonably priced at R 55 if I remember correctly.  Earl had a cappuccino and I had an Americano. The staff were friendly and efficient.

We went out for a drive at midday and were back around 3:30 pm.   The animals were once again scattered about the landscape which hugely enhanced the view.   The weather was sunny but a little cooler than yesterday and toward the end of the afternoon dark clouds began to gather. Because of the cloud cover, the evening was a little warmer than it would have been on a clear night.

Elephants were everywhere.  Zebra played happily at almost all the waterholes we visited.  Male kudu with wonderfully beautiful horns showed off and the females with their gorgeous eyes entertained us too. Let’s not forget the handsome hartebeest and just one buffalo and an eland with a missing horn. As usual, we also stopped for the birds!

The first bird of the day was just outside our caravan. The tap tap tap alerted me to its presence. It is a female Cardinal Woodpecker if I am not mistaken.
Soon after exiting the gate, we stopped for the ellies. They were very close
We were about to pass by when this one took the right of way!
One of the gorgeous boys who appeared quite frequently
This suricate in a tree made us laugh
Jumbo is making his way to Domkrag
The herd in the background has just left. The zebra to the right make way for him
He has the pond to himself
Is he admiring his reflection?

The Earl captured some stunning photographs of the Ant-eating Chat.

And a Wattled Starling made an appearance too.
Carol’s Rest was hosting a variety of animals – I just managed to snap the eland before he left in a hurry
I wonder what happened to his other horn
He couldn’t get away fast enough
This young red hartebeest was content to nap in the car park
Ellie wanted a drink too. But the proprietor has an exclusion policy – Not giants allowed and if he tries to break through he will get a shock!
So he storms off in a huff. The zebras don’t mind!
Something made this guy jump.
Come on, Porkies – Get a room!
The wildflowers in the park are beautiful
We were delighted to find chest-nut vented warblers but they would not sit still for a decent portrait.
This is an old one from the archives

Gecko 81 at Addo – Day 5

Wednesday, 08 June 2022

This morning the temperature was relatively warm and getting out of bed was not too bone-chilling.   We were ready to set off by 8:30 and made our way toward the southern part of the park.   We did not find the lions!    At first, there was very little to see and elephants were conspicuous by their absence.   Later in the day, this changed and we saw some at a number of the water holes and in the bush.  Hapoor Waterhole, however, did not host any elephants at all.  For some reason, the elephants are more spread out and in smaller groups than usual.   Zebras, however, seem to be gathering in very large herds.

This beautiful canary was the first bird to greet us this morning
Always beautiful to see and hear. There were lots of bokmakieries about today
Mousebirds were also all over the place
Buffalo and Red-hartebeest ignore each other
What a place for a crow to perch! The buffs don’t look impressed. Ngulube Waterhole
Burchell’s Coucal spotted on the other side of the road
And these warthogs too
Red Hartebeest were about too
Near Lismore a baby zebra feeds
Marion Baree hosted a good number of elephants
And they were in a playful mood

We stopped at Jack’s Picnic site for our breakfast break.  This site is kept beautifully neat and tidy and the restrooms are clean.  There are lovely little secluded sites with picnic tables and braai places.  There are no bins and you need to take your rubbish away with you.  This prevents monkeys from entering the site to raid the trash cans.  It works.  We did not see a single vervet while we were there.  At the caravan park, we have to keep a close lookout for monkeys and make sure that no food is left outside and the grocery cupboard door is kept closed even while we are sitting outside.  Our cousins are very opportunistic and will grab whatever they can if given half the chance.

Jack’s Picnic Site
Picnic sites protected by spekboom
This boubou tried his luck – but rules are rules!
Mr. Shelduck was visiting Hapoor but no sign of his wife.
Mrs. Moorhen was there with several chicks but she seemed to have a favourite
She kept feeding just this one – to be fair he was the only one who came close to where she was foraging. The others were late to the dinner table!
Come on down little brother – Mom’s got food!
The spoonbill was back at Rooidam
Ghwarrie had a few ellies
They were preparing to leave when we arrived
Woodlands seems to be the place they prefer and so do the kudu
As we neared the gate this giant approached us.
And passed a little too close for comfort!

We returned to camp at 1 pm.   The weather was stunning with the temperature quickly rising to 28 degrees C.

Gecko 81 at Addo – Day 4

Tuesday, 07 June 2022

It was absolutely freezing when I got up at 7:30 this morning.   Yesterday we bought a small fan heater from Spar in Colchester and I put it on immediately.  What a difference this makes to getting up in the cold caravan!  

After a shower and a warming cup of coffee, we set off at 8:30.  The skies were blue and cloudless and there was no wind so it warmed up quite quickly.   Our first stop was Domkrag Dam and then we did the Gorah Loop to Carol’s Rest Waterhole and then back to camp.  

Red-billed Teal – Domkrag Dam
Mr and Mrs Shelduck at Domkrag

It is amazing to see all the animals scattered across the veld.  Elephants, kudu, zebra, and red-hartebeest can be seen all together decorating the landscape.

Red Hartebeest
Such handsome creatures
This one getting close to its food
Elephants scattered about everywhere
How many elephants?
A huge number of zebra all over the park
A buffalo at Carol’s Rest

We were thrilled today to see two different sightings of suricates.   What cute little creatures they are – always alert and on the lookout for danger.  They all look in different directions and then if there is danger they pop right back into their holes or if they need to go someplace else they race off all at the same time.   We also saw a few yellow mongooses who are more fluffy and less hyperactive than the suricates.

Yellow Mongoose checking out the environment
On the other side of the road, this meerkat family looked around nervously
Around the corner, it was difficult to see that there were lots more of these cute creatures
But they were there alright
Making sure no predators were about
Uh oh something is coming – hide!
And in an instant, this is all you see as he scurries into his hiding place

Back at camp, the Earl cooked us a delicious breakfast and the birds came to visit.  The red-winged starlings were the cheekiest chasing all competitors away.  Even the pied starlings gave way to them.  It was lovely to have the Karoo thrush, Karoo Scrub-robin, southern boubou and black-headed oriole pop in to say hi too.

Karoo Thrush
Pied Starling
Black-headed Oriole

By midday, the temperature had risen to 28 degrees C and our jerseys and jackets were discarded until much later in the evening. We went out at 3 pm and enjoyed some more lovely sightings.

Elephant encounter at Rooidam
At the same time, two kudu males were at each other
While a Cape Teal simply ignored them
As we drove on we got held up by a traffic jam
Annoyed to be urged off the road
Honestly, it’s so much easier on the road – let’s get back there!
This is a zebra crossing – cars must wait!
We don’t mind
Have a nice day!
There were no elephants at Hapoor but the egrets were enjoying themselves
And so was this blacksmith lapwing
And this three-banded plover enjoyed not having to worry about getting underfoot of a pachyderm
The warthogs found the lovely green grass on the edge of the dam quite tasty
Such freedom when you don’t have to worry about giants stepping on you.

Sitting outdoors this evening was very pleasant. It was a perfect, still evening and although we wore jackets it was the best evening we have had so far. I cooked a chicken and vegetable casserole in the Remosca Pot and Jim and Maureen joined us.

Gecko 81 at Addo – Day 2 and 3

Sunday, 5 June 2022

It rained last night and we woke to overcast and chilly weather.   Fortunately, we had put our chairs in a sheltered place.

I packed a breakfast bag and filled a flask and we were out of camp by 8:30 am.  There were a few spots of rain which soon cleared up and by afternoon the skies were clear again.  Temperatures were low but not unusual for this time of year.

We spent most of the morning exploring, stopping a Zuurkop Lookout Point to have breakfast. We did not go to the southern part of the park until our afternoon drive when we went in search of lions and did not find them!

Our first spot of the day – Pale Chanting Goshawk. There were two. The light was not quite right but still lovely to see these awesome birds.

You may alight from your vehicle at a place that overlooks Domkrag Dam and it is usually a worthwhile stop. We spotted elephants and kudu in the distance and the dam had a few birds to entertain us.

Grey Heron patiently waiting for some action
Juvenile Striated Heron catching the morning rays
A pair of Egyptian Geese – (Earl’s Photo)

Today as we drove around we saw a good number of malachite sunbirds.

They flitted about rapidly but this one reluctantly sat still for a few seconds.
The handsome Common Fiscal was more obliging
Very common but very pretty. I couldn’t resist snapping this female Cape Sparrow
And later a pair posed beautifully
A speckled mousebird soaking up the morning sun

We were hoping to be entertained by meerkats (Suricates) but instead, a pair of yellow mongooses put on a good show for us.

They are just so cute
This handsome guy was striding across the veld too.
And keeping a close eye on the girls

At Carol’s Rest Waterhole there was very little action. While we watched some ant-eating chats take a bath we heard a tapping on our rear window. It was a cheeky wagtail imagining that he saw a potential rival. He was attacking his reflected image! We had such a giggle and even when we drove away he followed us for ages. I got some shots in the side mirror!

Poor Waggy attacking an intruder!
Ellies were all over the park

Hapoor is usually a good gathering place for pachyderms but today it was fowl of the water variety.

A rather good-looking yellow-billed duck
And a hamerkop dropped in for a chat too
Kudu ruled in the park today and we saw quite a number of lovely males with stunning horns

Rooidam produced some waterfowl too.

Hamerkop
And a very busy spoonbill
Ghwarrie dam attracted elephants too

In the evening we went over to Jim and Maureen’s campsite. Jim had a fire going which created a lovely ‘gees’ (atmosphere) and kept us relatively warm.  Maureen cooked a delicious chicken and vegetable stir fry with just enough ginger and chilly to give it a bite.  

The sunset once again was just too stunning.

Monday, 06 June 2022

Omiword it was freezing when we got up at 7:30 am.    The temperature was about 4 degrees C.   After a hot shower and a warming cup of coffee we set off toward Colchester Gate and tried to find the lions on the Ngulube Loop where they had been reported but we had no luck.  We did, however, see an Aardwolf!   It was a lovely sighting but he dashed back into the bush and refused to pose for his portrait.   But this is a free clipart drawing of one!

And yes – he gave us such a look!

Of course, we stopped to photograph other creatures along the way and were pleased to see some of the waterholes had attracted a bit of wildlife.

Marion Baree Waterhole is one of my favourites
Warthogs really rule in Addo. This handsome lad was good enough to pose
The best bird in Addo has to be the Bokmakierie
Glossy Starling
A special bird to see – Red-necked Spurfowl

We exited at Colchester Gate and went to Taste of Africa for breakfast and to make a few purchases at the Spar next door.   It was still very cold at 10 am.

We then went back through the park and explored a few roads and waterholes enjoying some lovely sightings.

Quellea
Young kudu

At Peasland Waterhole there were simply scores of zebra coming and going

Don’t ask – something was funny!
There were lots of red hartebeest in the park too
We have seen the tail end of a few buffalo but this one decided to give me a quick glance
before heading off on his own mission
Lots of these girls were trying to hide amongst the trees
They have such pretty faces
Southern Bou-bous also made an appearance
Such a gorgeous bird
And please beware of dung beetles – Don’t drive over them and don’t drive over dung where they might be hiding.

More tomorrow if I get time – otherwise the next day!

Gecko 81 Adventuring to Addo Again

Saturday, 04 June 2022

The plan was to leave on Friday, spend the night with the kids in Plett and then meet our Jeffreys Bay friends, Jim and Maureen at Addo on Saturday.   We were only supposed to leave on Friday morning but everything was ready by Thursday afternoon so we hitched up the Gecko and left planning to find a caravan site at whichever place we made it to by around 4 pm and that turned out to be Dwarswegstraatoord, Groot Brak.  What a delightful place.   We had a caravan site with its own ablution.  I did not take photos but everything was pristine and comfortable.  

We went to Transkaroo for dinner and it was awesome.  They had a fire going and the menu was great.  We both chose pork belly on mash with crackling and vegetables.  It was delicious.

There’s nothing like a roaring fire to create a welcoming atmosphere
A Table with a View

An awesome sky after sunset
A really wonderful meal

We left early the next morning, stopped at 34 Degrees South in Knysna for breakfast, and arrived in Plett at 10:30 am.  Lauren, Shan and Si were of course at school and only due to get home later in the afternoon.  Allan had just completed his work for the week and once settled in he asked if I’d like to join him on a Robberg Walk.   Yes indeed.  So we left Earl who can’t manage that level of hiking to do some shopping and Allan and I did the 5km trail.

It was a perfect day for this hike which takes you along cliffs and beaches with the most magnificent views.    In places, it is very narrow, steep and slippery. The paths are uneven and rocky and you need to be able to cope with steep, uneven steps. Imagine how aghast I was to make way for a young man who was running the route! Allan was very patient with his ancient mother-in-law or perhaps grateful that he had an excuse to rest from time to time! My excuse for stopping frequently was to admire the stunning views. It took us an hour and fifteen minutes to do the trail and afterward, we treated ourselves to excellent coffees from the hut in the car park. If you are reasonably agile and have no mobility challenges this trail is well worth doing. There is also a 10km trail if you have the time and energy.

It was lovely to spend the afternoon with the rest of the family when they arrived home and in the evening we had a braai.

This morning we were up and off by 7:45.    We stopped at Windfarm just before Port Elizabeth for our breakfast break.  This is quite a new venue with a petrol station, restrooms and a few eating places.  We went to Oumeul and had coffee and croissants – mine with ham and avo and Earl’s with bacon and egg.

We always enter Addo at Colchester Gate.  There are signs up saying no caravans but we know from experience that off-road caravans are allowed through and have never ever had a problem until today.  One of the men on duty told us we had to turn around and go via Patterson.  I explained to him that off-roads were and always have been allowed to enter.  He said that this was definitely not the case. I asked him to ask the person on duty in the office.  She agreed with him and said we had to go through the main park gate.

“Please make sure,” I said.  “Show me the rules.” 

She took me to the map outside the office and pointed to where it said, “No caravans allowed.”

“But look here,” I explained, “It says, ‘4×4 caravans and trailers only’.”   She conceded the point but her colleague was still not happy.   He was afraid that they were going to be in trouble for allowing us through. I checked the park map that you receive when entering the gate and even on that it clearly states that off-road caravans are permitted to enter at Colchester Gate. Perhaps it was the first time that these two had been on duty there and were not well-versed in the rules.

We were delighted not to be turned around and enjoyed the drive to camp spotting some lovely animals along the way.

Of course, Warty was there in all his glory
Lots of red hartebeest too.
Every now and then some elephants
This one was drying off after a bath

Jim and Maureen were already set up on site C17 and we found one of our favourite sites, C25 vacant, and set up there.  We spent the afternoon in camp and had a lovely braai at our site with our friends in the evening.  The sunset was just stunning.

And this mom and baby cheekily entered the camp and walked right through Jim and Maureen’s campsite
Sunset
Dinner’s ready
This domestic kitty came looking for company. I’m sure he is an illegal immigrant

Share Your World 9 May 2022

Here are my answers to this week’s Share Your World from Sparks

What two totally normal things become really weird if you do them back to back? 

Attend a funeral and then leave to attend a Christening?

What is something that you just recently realized that you are embarrassed by, that you didn’t realize embarrassed you?  

Nothing comes to mind. Very little embarrasses me.

If  Australia (including New Zealand and Tasmania – which I KNOW are different countries); the UK, Ireland, Germany, the USA, and Brazil or Italy were represented by one food, which would it be for each?  

Okay – Australia – Prawns on a barbie. UK – Mushie peas? USA – Hot dogs? Hamburgers? Italy – Pasta of course but also Eggplant Parmigiana or anything made with eggplant.

What might happen if Goldilocks and the Three Bears were set in modern times?

Once upon a modern time, a vagrant child name Goldilocks was at a loose end one early morning. She was hungry and tired after a hard night on the street so she went looking for a kind soul who might give her a free meal. She found herself outside a smart house and rang the bell at the security gate. No reply. Frustrated she pushed the gate and found that for whatever reason it was not locked. Cautiously she made her way up the long garden path and then knocked on the door. Once again there was no reply.

This was because it was Mother’s Day and the Bear family had gone to an upmarket coffee shop for breakfast. While the littlest bear was presenting his mom with a wrapped gift and Father Bear was ordering something more exciting than cooked oats, Goldilocks was wondering how she could break into their lovely home.

The window to the dining room was a crack open and being a somewhat skinny child she managed to squeeze in. Well, there was no food set on the table but the dining area was open plan to the kitchen and there was a big shiny fridge just begging to be opened. Goldi found an array of delicious treats, cheese, ham and avocado pear. In the breadbasket, she found some fresh croissants and she quickly made herself a delicious snack. After this, she felt quite sleepy so she went upstairs and found a cosy bed. “I’ll just take a little nap and when I hear the Bears come home I’ll slip out,” she thought. But what the poor child did not realise was that the house had a silent alarm and just as she fell asleep armed response and the Bears whom they had alerted arrived and entered the house.

“Let me go in first,” said the burly guard with a gun. “We might catch the culprit red-handed.” The family followed close behind and exclaimed in horror when they saw the messy kitchen. Goldi had failed to clean up after herself. They then all ran upstairs and it was Baby Bear who found the sweet child cuddled up in his bed. Now he was a kind-hearted little fellow so he decided not to say a word.

The guard checked every other room and the Bears checked to see that nothing was missing. “We must have disturbed the intruder. No harm done!” said Mr. Bear.

The guard left and it was then that their son confessed that there was a kid in his bed. “Please can we keep her?” he begged.

The shocked parents tip-toed into the room, saw the little urchin and instantly fell in love with her. “Yes,” they said. “She is clearly a neglected street child. We will call social services and adopt her!”

And they all lived happily ever after.

Where was the most embarrassing or inappropriate place you’ve passed audible gas?

I can’t remember such an incident but it was probably in the classroom and the kids were too polite to comment!

Two Geckos at Guano Caves, Montagu

To follow our Gecko Weekend at Glen Oakes in The Hemel en Aarde district, Cathy thought it would be nice to extend our break-away with a visit to Guano Caves. We had never been there and neither had she and Alec but the reviews on the place were good. However, trying to book was not easy. Cathy phoned a few weeks before departure and was told to email. She did this and did not receive a reply. She phoned again and they said to wait 48 hours. She did but still no reply so again she telephoned and asked to speak to the owners. Only then did she manage to book! Because of this, we were worried that the place might not be all that it was cracked up to be but we were not disappointed.

We left Glen Oakes in slightly overcast weather on Monday morning and stopped at Ou Meul in Riviersonderend for breakfast. There was plenty of double parking for our two rigs. We ordered two teas, a cappuccino and an Americano. Cathy and Alec had bacon and cheese omelettes and the Earl and I had spinach and feta omelettes. They were served with sourdough toast and were very good. I also bought some croissants for the following day’s breakfast. It was a lovely place to stop.

Cogmanskloof pass

Check-in at Guano went well and we were assigned Sites 26 and 28 which are next to each other. The sites were big, even and shady. The ablutions were excellent but you need to bring your own toilet paper and soap. If you want a plug you need to pay a deposit of R50 at reception. I am sure this is because some campers walk off with them! The ablutions were clean and Cathy and I were quite satisfied with the ladies’ section. Hairdryers were available. There is a built-in tile bench in each spacious shower cubicle. There is also a long ledge on which to place your shampoo, shower gel, etc. The men told us theirs did not have that but they did have a bench.

Two Geckos at the Guano Gate
Spacious and shady campsites
Full-length mirror as you enter the bathrooms
Basins
Plenty of hot water in the showers

There are also several family bathrooms with baths and showers with double roses on the perimeter of the ablution block.

The camp kitchen only provides washup facilities. All cooking must be done at your campsite. There is a laundry but the washing machine was out of order.

Camp Wash-up Area

The facilities are lovely. There are two pool areas with crystal clear cold pools. In the main pool area, there is an enormous outdoor pool and supertube as well as a heated indoor pool made to look like a Roman Bath. Treatments are available at a spa too.

A beautiful arrangement of pools
A lovely bridge leading to the picnic area

The main pool and indoor Roman Bath are situated near reception, the shop and the restaurant. There are plenty of loungers and there is enough shade. We had a meal at the restaurant on Thursday and found the food very good.

Looking down on the main pool.

Guano Caves Resort has a petting farm and there are a variety of exotic animals to see. They also have rabbits in enclosures and birds in aviaries. I am not in favour of animals being kept like this but they were well cared for.

This poor swan was alone as its mate had died.
There were a variety of different ducks swimming on the ponds
Peacock
Camels enjoying the Karoo Environment
They do blend into the landscape

On Wednesday after enjoying Cathy’s delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and croissants we made our way to Montagu. Earl and I visited Leiwater Bird Hide in Barry Street. How surprising to find a bird hide on the pavement! It overlooks a lovely little dam where a variety of waterbirds nest. We did not see very much but what we saw was delightful.

Common Moorhen
Reed Cormorant
Egyptian Geese and Sacred Ibis

We then met up with Cathy and Alec at the Montagu Museum. There are two to visit and they had already done the first one. After enjoying the second we popped across the road and had coffee and cake at the Rambling Rose which was excellent. Afterward, C and A went to buy wine and we went to see the church museum. Both museums were very interesting and it cost R15 each to see both.

A young boy sitting at the table in his highchair
Sheep guarding the cake display
Cheesecake and apple strudel were delicious. Coffee was excellent

When we were done the Earl and I took a short drive and went to Cape Dried Fruit Packers where we bought some dried apricots, nuts and olives.

Our campsite attracted wild birds which kept us entertained.

Karoo Thrush
Cape Weavers
The ringneck doves called from the trees constantly and also came down when crumbs were available

Overall the visit to Guano Caves Resort was most enjoyable. The water for all the pools comes from a spring at a temperature of 24 degrees C. By the time it reaches the pools it has cooled down so the Roman Bath is heated to 35 degrees C. Unfortunately they were experiencing technical problems so we did not get the full benefit of the really hot water. The pool was, however, warm enough to enjoy a swim each day we were there.

The Roman Bath

It is a lovely venue and we will certainly visit again.

Nine Geckos and a dog visit Hemel en Aarde Valley

Thanks to the hard work and excellent organisation of Colin Henderson, nine Gecko caravans gathered together at Glen Oaks Farm in the beautiful Hemel and Aarde Valley. Nardus and Adelien brought their cute little poodle, Hayley, along too and she turned out to be a source of great entertainment and delight. Noone escaped having to throw the ball which she gleefully chased and then hid challenging her chosen victim to find it.

Gecko 109 and Gecko 81 setting off from Napier
A Camp full of Geckos

Nardus almost didn’t join us as he has injured his back but at the last minute, he decided he just could not miss out. With all the Gecko men volunteering to help him and Adelien they were set up in no time!

Many manne make light work

The facilities at Glen Oaks are rustic. There is no power and no camp kitchen. But there is a Lapa where we all gathered in the evenings to braai. On the first evening, it was very cold so we gathered in the inner section which had a roof but thereafter we sat around the pit fire outdoors. This fire was an excellent source of heat. The weather was fine during the day but a lot chillier at night. We were ever so grateful that it did not rain.

The inner Lapa
The braai masters at work

Gecko people are special people and it was the best experience to see so many of our twins parked together at the same venue. We enjoyed some lovely conversations, shared camping stories, joked a lot, and had many laughs.

Like when Francois dried Susan’s hair with a leaf blower! – “A Blow-job of note” quipped Cathy!

On Saturday we all set off to Stanford and took a river cruise down the Klein River. It was just the most awesome experience. Our guide on the Lady Stanford knew his birds and for those of us who were into bird-watching, this was an extra bonus. As we set off, a Purple Heron flew into a tree and posed, and that did for me straight away. I was in heaven.

Setting off on the cruise (Photo by Colin)
A good start to the cruise – Purple Heron
Susan and George
Diane, Hennie and Francis
Colin produced some sherry! Cheers!
Yellow-billed Ducks
Egyptian Geese
African Darter
Female Pied Kingfisher
The African Queen was also on the river
Colin on the top deck doing the Titanic Thing!
Alec called down to his wife, “I’m nuts over you!”
Karen and Johnnie
Naked Lady tanning on the jetty 🙂

After the two-hour cruise, we went to the Birkenhead Brewery for lunch. Pottie and Nida joined us there and it was great meeting them too. While we waited for lunch to be served we were taken on a short interesting tour to see how their craft beers were made. Afterward, some of us did a beer tasting. The Earl ordered a Pot Belly Pilsner which was delicious.

On the Brewery tour
Colin’s photo

Our food was served promptly and I heard no complaints. It certainly is a lovely venue and if you’re ever in the Stanford area this is a good place to stop for lunch.

Beer Tasting (Photo – Colin)

On Sunday, we all had a quiet day at camp and just enjoyed each others’ company and the glorious weather. My friend, Sonja, had baked two carrot cakes for me and insisted that I take them along to camp and give everybody there a slice. This I did on Sunday afternoon and all agreed that it was delicious.

Thank you Sonja
The outer Lapa and pit fire – Right side Standing -Johnnie Seated Mari, Francois, Cathy Alec
The outer Lapa -left to right, Louis, Rika, Diane, Colin, Nadus, Adeline

On Monday morning after a leisurely start, everybody started to pack up and by 11:30 Alec, Cathy, Earl and I had bidden everyone farewell. We stayed another day so as to avoid travelling on a public holiday. WIthout Colin to make the fires we decided to abandon braaing and went to the Plaas Kombuis for lunch. It was a good decision and we can highly recommend this as a place to go when you’re in the area.

Plaas Kombuis
Excellent food

We left this morning and are now happily settled at Guano Caves Caravan Park where the weather is just stunning.

Two Geckos happily set up at the shady campsite of Guano Caves

Share Your World 19 April 2022

Here are my answers to this week’s Share Your World

In your opinion, what do you buy way more of than most people?

I don’t buy a lot of anything. I spend money on experiences rather than things. Maybe I spend more on holidays than most people.

When I peep into shoppers’ trolleys, I am horrified to see tons of junk food. Perhaps I spend more on healthy food than other people? I spend money on ‘expensive’ foods like avocado pear which some people refuse to buy because they find them overpriced but then they fill their baskets with fizzy drinks and cookies. I’d rather have the avo.

Which workers have the worst jobs?

There are many yucky jobs that people perform. What could be worse than fixing blocked toilets? And how about cleaning up a gory crime scene? Perhaps the pay is worth it!

Opinion.  John Cage is a composer who composed a piece named 4’33” for any instrument. The performers are instructed not to play their instrument for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Is this music or is this art?  A combination of the two?   Neither, it’s stupid.  Your opinion?

I think John Cage was arrogant. He was trying to make a point that there was no such thing as silence. There would be some sound. But so what? People go to a recital to hear music, not ambient sound. He tried to make people feel guilty for not listening properly! In my opinion, that’s just rude. Of course, he caused a great stir and perhaps it was just his intention to attract attention and ruffle people’s feathers. Quite funny actually.

How good are you at drawing?

I am absolutely useless at drawing. So many artists have told me that ‘everybody’ can draw and that they could teach me to draw. It hasn’t happened yet. My drawings are worse than a pre-school level.

I did not draw this – mine would be worse!

GRATITUDE SECTION (as always optional)

Feel free to share one amazing thing you’ve experienced (any time frame).

Credit for meme goes to Lauren 

I love Lauren’s meme. My hubby and I have just spent the Easter Weekend with our daughter Lauren. We visited Mountain Zebra National Park and immersed ourselves in nature. The wildflowers were beautiful, the animals amazing and we just loved the birds. It was an awesome break-away.