Would you care to join us as we follow the experiences of Nicole Morse and her partner Marelise Bardenhorst on their quest to climb high, snow-clad mountains in Ecuador? Their venture is self-funded and the goal is to raise awareness and champion the children of the “Homes to Grow” project. We’ll be posting their journey on the website and Facebook page and would like to invite you to “Follow” and “Share” to spread the story.
Who are the children and the project they are supporting in their venture? It’s a story that unfolds with much promise and hope right from the heart of Masiphumelele, a township situated in the far south peninsula of Cape Town. The project started in 2009 when the St Francis Outreach Trust was established and through fundraising efforts and support from various associates, led to the establishment of two homes for abandoned or orphaned children affected through the HIV/Aids pandemic. The children had suffered traumatic experiences and some came from harrowing backgrounds, but we see how over time a stable and loving environment coupled with adequate healthcare and good nutrition heals the scars of that previous existence.
Of the requirements to ensure the children’s needs are covered, we find that the cost of their education is the most pressing. The funds being raised through Nicole and Marelise’s endeavours will make a promising start to this year’s target of R300,000. The eventual aim of the Trust is to raise R1.25 million in the long term for education but that goal remains a long way off. Should you wish to support the cause, any donation would be most appreciated.
The intrepid duo’s departure is set for February 16 and they will spend the first days in Quito acclimatising to the altitude. The plan is to ease into the experience by hiking trails on the lesser mountains – Pasochoa (4200 m) Pichincha (4696 m), Illinaza Norte (5126 m) and then try to summit Cotopaxi (5,897 m). Prior to this undertaking they will undergo technical training on the glacier to hone ice-climbing techniques using crampons and ice axes. If all goes well they will attempt to reach the summit by starting the climb at midnight on the seventh day. This will give them time to descend before the sun warms the glacier making it unstable by possibly causing avalanches or ice and rock falls. Additional challenges for the climbers could be adverse weather and altitude sickness. Tackling this rugged and austere terrain is not for the feint hearted! There are the demands in the lead up to departure as they prepare with the rigors of strenuous physical training as well as developing steely mental attitude. Nicole’s confidence is evident and she claims that they’re ready to go … “to push to the limits”. Three weeks to count down….. we wish them luck!
It rained on New Year’s eve here in Cape Town and we awoke at dawn on the morning of the 1st to the gentle patter of raindrops still falling. Now five days later it’s back to parched earth and the dam level aggregate has dropped to 29.1%. We are worried; very worried. The City Council warns that Day Zero could happen as early as 18 March – that is when the taps will be switched off and citizens will have to queue for water at designated collection points.
Meanwhile the summer season is in full swing; beaches, scenic sights, vineyards, restaurants are all buzzing with festivities and happy visitors. At times residents feel overwhelmed and scuttle off to the lesser known spots. Or get up early to beat the queues to the beach or nature parks.
This past week the mornings have been sweetly scented and cool and as we’ve set out to hike or cycle through our favourite nature reserve we’ve tended to see animals on the move, generally moving through an area foraging. Recent sightings of five different baboon troops highlight how their behaviour changes when their territory overlaps with the park’s recreational areas or how the attractants in town, like the refuse bins lure them off the mountain. For most of the year the baboons forage on natural vegetation or in the rock pools. Come summer and the picnic spots draw them like bees to a honeypot.
Below the Buffels troop check out the barbecue area for scraps.
In contrast the baboons in the photos (below) of the Kanonkop troop like to forage in natural vegetation.
Chacma baboon picking sourfigs.
The fruit of the sourfig is high in vitamin C
Seaching for sourfigs.
Baby rides jockey style.
A favourite scene – juveniles with a baby picking the berries from Rhus crenata.
Sister is playing nursemaid and keeping an eye on baby while mum forages.
So intent on eating his meal of Leucodendron cones.
Chacma baboons in restio field.
There’s always time for a bit of rough and tumble.
On the Atlantic side of the Peninsula, another troop – probably the Olifantsbos troop dash across the beach in a strong breeze to get to the rock pools to forage for mussels and other shellfish delicacies.
Beach scene when the wind was blowing.
Heading to the rock pools.
The dash across the beach.
The sand was stinging that day.
The Smitswinkel troop are generally kept off the road by the conservation rangers, but this season we’ve found them on the road several times – a hazardous situation for both baboons and motorists.
Smitswinkel troop on the road.
Every piece of plastic is a target for inspection by the baboons.
The contents of a refuse bag.
Baboons from the Waterfall troop sometimes make excursions into town to raid the rubbish bins –
Bin raid in Simons Town
Bread has a high calorie reward for a baboon.
Street bins are not locked and the lids easily knocked off.
This scene was an easy choice as my favourite shot of the year! It lacks in photographic technique and neither is it a good composition, but rather it speaks in an existential sense – a wild untrammelled spirit ; flying along, unfettered, free. It’s also unusual in that the Cape Mountain zebra are a species associated with mountains, and to have recorded this scene on the beach is (i think) a personal shot of a lifetime. I posted it after the devastating storm in June and wrote about it here.