Exploring the Delightful, Dramatic Drakensbergs

A couple of months ago we took a wonderful African road trip to the Drakensbergs. Located a few hours south of Pretoria in Kwa-Zulu Natal (known colloquially as KZN), this region is renowned for its stunning scenery and mountainous terrain and it certainly did not disappoint. It wasn’t a long trip – just a few days to take a rest from the demands of city life – but the area was so beauiful we felt completely refreshed at the end of our break.

PicMonkey Collage

We stayed at a quirkly little place called Antbear Lodge – where the rooms were all carved from wood but the views were as stunning as they come. We had originally booked this place because it was dog-friendly and we thought we might be able to bring our new puppy with us. But in the event he was too young for his first holiday so we left him behind (in good hands 🙂 ), and enjoyed not having to get up at the crack of dawn to let him out for a pee. There were however other dogs on the property, as well as sheep, ducks, geese and -most exciting of all – horses for riding!


We didn’t have a fixed agenda but were keen to explore the area a little as we hadn’t yet ventured to this part of South Africa. As it was, we found plenty to do – and the children just enjoyed the freedom to run around on the lodge grounds without restrictions of bars, fences, gates and locks…

One of the days we drove to an well-known paragliding site for my husband to chuck himself off a cliff. The drive turned into a bit of an adventure as the road up to the site was the narrowest, rockiest, steepest and downright most terrifying drive we have yet undertaken in this country. The panorama from the top was wonderful though and as my husband even managed to get a flight in, definitely worth the hassle to get there as this meant his mood was much improved 🙂


Another day we drove to the Giant’s Castle reserve and walked up to look at some of the cave paintings – something that has been on my “to do” list since we got here. Since I managed to injure my ankle quite badly a few weeks before we went away I was quite nervous about the walk even though it wasn’t more than about one hour to get there. But by taking it easy and wearing “sensible footwear” I was fine and so glad that I did as the paintings are very special. They date back hundreds of years, with some a lot more recent – but are a great reminder that while life has been going on here for centuries, it’s only relatively recently that man has started to dramatically changed the landscape to what we know now. The views from the walk to and from the caves were also magnificent – the whole area reminds me of some sort of “garden of eden”and I can understand why it is such a popular hiking spot.


As well as exploring nature we also made sure to have a bit of fun. On one morning we rode the lodge’s horses through the fields, admiring the view from a different angle and enjoying the fact that thanks to months of riding lessons this was the first time we could ride as a family without worrying about anyone falling off. Another day we visited the attractions on the famous “midlands meander” – a mix of local craft shops, fun things for the kids to do (candle dipping; archery etc) and foodie places to stock up on things like cheeses and biltong. We particularly enjoyed the chocolate dipping at Chocolate Heaven – seriously, what was there NOT to like about this place? It was a plateful of strawberries, biscuits, marshmallows, bananas, dried fruit and even chillis and biltong should you so wish – all dipped into suprisingly good Belgian chocolate. We walked away feeling a little sick but totally happy. We came to the Drakensbergs for the views; we found amazing chocolate. What more could we possibly ask for?


Well there was one more suprise and this was something we hadn’t expected. At the end of the “meander” is a place called the “capture site” – the place where Nelson Mandela, masquarading as a chauffeur,  was finally captured after evading the apartheid forces for more than 17 months. The site has been turned into a small museum which was interesting enough on its own. But it is the extraordinary sculpture of Mandela’s head that only reveals itself to you as you take the “long road to freedom” path down the slope towards it that really made the stop worthwhile. Reading about the scultpure online I see there is all sorts of signficance to the number of steel bars used to make it etc. But really it doesn’t need explanation as it speaks for itself.


And so ended our trip to the Drakensbergs – a wonderful, refreshing, beautiful area of the country that so many just rush past on the way to the coast. I hope we get the chance to return – it’s relatively close to Pretoria (relative being the size of the country) and we still want to try and drive up the famous Sani pass into Lesotho. But if we don’t make it back we will have many good memories to sustain us. Of beautiful views, magnificent sculptures and of course of delicious chocolate!


A Day in My Expat Life – Pretoria

Welcome to the first in what I hope will become a new series showing the reality of expat life. Since I moved to South Africa, I know I have posted quite a lot about our travels – pictures of safaris and wildlife, sunshine and holidays. But of course there are just the edited highlights – the reality is that day-to-day life here isn’t that much more exciting than anywhere else (just with better weather). Forget cocktails on the beach and champagne receptions – this is what a normal 24 hours in a life overseas looks like. Starting with my own “normal” day here in South Africa I hope to share other photographic logs from expats around the world. If you would like to feature please get in touch – details at the end of the post.

DAY: Tuesday 17th May

Time: 07.00


Every day starts with tea – usually at the breakfast table after the kids have left for school and my husband to work. This gives me a few quiet moments to myself, when I catch up with the news on my BBC app and read any emails that have come in overnight.

Time: 08.00


After getting dressed, Cooper our miniature schnauzer puppy, knows it’s walk time. If he is lucky I meet up with friends and their dogs and  take him to one of the few places in Pretoria where we can let them off the lead. Today though it was a walk round the block firmly attached to me to stop him running off and eating every dried frog/chicken bone on the path

Time: 09.00


I had an appointment in Johannesburg this morning so was leaving Cooper in the capable hands of our domestic helper Sarna. She comes to us twice a week and takes care of the washing, ironing and cleaning. I don’t know what we are going to do without her when we return to the UK.

Time: 09.30


You can easily drive to Johannesburg but I find the Gautrain a better alternative. Linking Pretoria with Joburg and Oliver Tambo airport, the trainline takes you right into the main shopping areas and is wonderfully clean, efficient and safe.

Time: 10.30


My meeting in Johannesburg was with Hannah who runs Translating Me, a business that helps expats settle into their new life. We had never met before but we had so much to talk about I don’t think we stopped nattering the whole time we were together. It helped that Hannah introduced me to this wonderful cafe, the Patisserie, which sells the most incredible macaroons. I will certainly be returning and bringing friends from Pretoria!

Time: midday


Back to the station to take me home – these two security guards were carrying on a conversation across the tracks. Their presence makes the station feel very safe.

Time: 13.00


On the way home I popped into our local supermarket, Woolworths. It is completely different from the chain that used to be Woolies in the UK – best known for it’s “pick n mix” sweets selection and selling records back in the day. This version of Woolworths is more or less the food part of Marks and Spencers, an upmarket British chain. According to Wikipedia, it is also not the same as the Australian version of Woolworths. Confused? I am! However I am very grateful that it exists as it is a great place to shop with a fantastic range – although prices have gone through the roof recently.

Time: 13.30


Checking out with a smile! Service is always great at Woolworths – I think they hand-pick the friendliest workers to employ.

Time: 14.00


Back home and gardener Lucas, who works on our compound and for us every Tuesday, has been helping keep Cooper entertained. I’m not sure what our local staff (including the guard at our gate) thought of him when we first got him as unfortunately many people here associate dogs with aggression as they are trained to guard homes. However Cooper seems to have won them all over and now they all seem to love him – until he steals something of theirs and hides it in the bushes!

Time: 14.30


Grabbing a sandwich I manage to get a bit of work done at my desk knowing the girls will soon be home from school.

Time: 16.00


And they’re back! One little boy is ALWAYS glad to see these two – although two or three times a week it’s a quick turnaround to horse-riding or swimming lessons. The girls have a long day as they leave at 6.45am and often are not home until 4pm or later if they have after-school activities. We all look forward to the weekends and holidays!

Time: 17.30


As it’s a tuesday, the girls have swimming lessons – they swim two or three times a week at the Universty of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre, one of the top training grounds for South African athletes in the country. Let’s hope some of that skill and competitiveness rubs off on them! Usually I drop them off and my husband picks them up on the way home from work, giving me time to prepare food for when they get home. Tonight it was the not-very-inspired pasta bolognese for tea.

Time: 20.30


And so the day ends with a sleeping puppy and a roaring log fire – our only heating system in the downstairs area of the house. The days may be bright and sunny but the nights at this time of the year are very chilly. Blankets are your friend!


If you would like to feature in A Day in My Expat Life please leave a comment below or email me at clara@expatpartnersurvival.com. All I need are around 10-12 pictures snapped as you go about your ordinary day, sent to me with captions, the date and approximate timings. I will do the rest! Please note: high quality pictures aren’t necessary, camera pics are fine as this makes it a lot easier to do 🙂

South Africa: You think you know a country and then you move there…..

South Africa – what images do those words conjure up for you? Is it of elephants and lions lurking behind the bushes of Kruger National Park? The iconic Table Mountain standing sentry over Cape Town? Or maybe it’s the legacy of Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest leaders of modern time who changed history in this Rainbow Nation?

On the other hand, it might also be car-jackings and armed robberies. House invasions and corrupt police officers. Shootings on the streets of Johannesburg. Or perhaps the huge division of wealth  between the shacks of inner-city townships and the shining villas of the opulent suburbs?

In fact, as I have discovered since moving here last year, it is all these things but it is also more – so much more. And the things that dominate both the negative headlines and the positive tourist brochures are often very out of proportion with the reality. In fact, just like I am sure is true for almost every country in the world, you really can’t know a country like South Africa until you live here. And even then, having been here less than a year still, I am really only scratching the surface.

When you think of South Africa is this what you see?

When you think of South Africa is this what you see?

The Size and the Beauty

First of all I have been totally blown away by the beauty and the diversity of South Africa. It is a huge, I mean really enormous, country. At least it is for me who comes from little old England. We have only been used to doing car journeys of an hour or two to get anywhere – a four hour trip would seem like a massive adventure! We also previously lived with our children on an even tinier island (St Lucia in the Caribbean), where the longest drive you could do was only about 2 hours long. So to find ourselves contemplating driving hundreds of kilometres for a weekend away was at first rather daunting – but we are getting used to it. And one of the reasons we are getting used to it is because there is so much to see and do we really don’t want to miss anything!

So far we have already ticked off many of those attractions that most people know about – Cape Town, Kruger, the Winelands, the whales of Hermanus. But we have discovered there is so much more to this country than the main tourist attractions – the Drakensbergs will  blow you away with their majestic beauty, Madikwe is a wonderful safari park only a few hours drive from the capital, Johannesberg is in every way as interesting a city as Cape Town (and a little more hip to boot!). And there is so much more: coming up we have a trip planned to the KZN coast to include some wildlife, some diving and a lot of beautiful scenery (including a short diversion in Swaziland – that is another thing about South Africa: with both Swazi and Lesotho contained within its borders you get three for the price of one, never mind the close proximity of Mozambique, Botswana, Zimababwe and Namibia…).  I also hope to drive the Garden route and up the coast, visit areas such as the Karoo and the Kalahari, explore Limpopo and Mpumalanga and so many other places with wonderful evocative names…

Namibia road trip....

Namibia road trip….

The Dirty Side

Of course you can’t ignore the dark side to this country and without a doubt there is a crime problem. But, and this is a big but, for me personally it is not as bad as I feared it would be. By that I in no way want to diminish the seriousness of this problem for a huge proportion of the population – you only have to look at the rape statistics or read about some of the awful home invasions to know that I am in a very priviliged position to be able to say this. However, as an expat with the backing of good physical security provided by our employer and a lot of common sense, I can go about my daily life more or less normally once you have become used to the bars and gates and locks and guards and alarms and keep doors…

But one thing I hadn’t really thought about but that concerns me far more is the high number of road traffic accidents and death toll they create. On our first weekend in the country we passed a horrific accident – there was a dead man lying in the road and two more badly injured at the side. Just yesterday we passed another here in Pretoria, two bodies lying under tarpaulin. In less than a year in this country I have seen more dead bodies due to road accidents than I have in all my life in the UK. I have lived places where the driving is a lot worse than here (apart from the minibus taxis, which are a law unto themselves) so it is hard to understand why the accident rate is so high but I wonder if it is something to do with the distances, the good roads, the fact that everyone is going to the same places at the same time…..

The Bit They REALLY Don’t Tell You About

This is the thing – what I have found hardest about living here isn’t the crime or the fear of crime but the weird underlying edginess and the racial tension that some might have thought would have disappeared after Mandela’s release in the 1990’s. But of course something like Apartheid doesn’t disappear overnight and in fact it will take generations for the problems it has caused to be resolved.

Often, I liken living here to living in an African version of the Help (the novel and then film set in 1950’s America). I live in Pretoria which I am told is the “Afrikaans heartland” and certainly in the part of the city I am in we are surrounded by affluent white people being served by black people (many of whom are immigrants from Zimbabwe and Malawi).


At the same time though there are white beggars on the street and white people leaving in their droves for other countries because thanks to a positive discrimination policy they feel they have no chance of getting a job.  And the current (black) government is incredibly unpopular and yet most people I speak to won’t vote for the main opposition party because although their leader is black they are known as the “white” party. The other opposition is seen as a bit mad by most but has a charasmatic and clever leader and is gaining popularity amongst the disffected youth. There are things happening here – like students burning down their own universities – which may or may not be connected to race but is somehow all tied up in the same problems of an unhappy younger generation. The so-called “born free” children (those born after Apartheid ended) are starting to reach maturity  and starting to question why life for them isn’t that much better than it was for their parents. It is a hot cauldron of bubbling tension that feels like it could overflow at any point. Add to that an economic crisis not helped by one of the worst droughts on record and this definitely feels like a country on the edge.

And yet

And yet my life here is wonderful. I realise that I am priviliged and my life does not in any way reflect that of the majority of South Africans. But I can enjoy gorgeous weather, beautiful countryside, cheap prices (thanks to the weak Rand – sorry South Africans!), good food, some of the best wine in the world and daily interactions with some of the friendliest people on the planet.

It’s a unique place alright but that is one of the reasons I love it!



Soak it in while you can for soon it will all be mundane

So nine months into our time here in South Africa and something occurred to me today. As I was taking our now pretty lively puppy Cooper for a walk, a flock of startled mousebirds flew out of a tree. I love mousebirds, they have cute tails and make a funny noise and I was reminiscing about our observations of these birds when we first arrived in Pretoria. It was nostalgic. Ahh, the early days, I thought. I miss them.

And then I realised that so much time has now passed since our arrival that things aren’t new or exciting any more. Life has basically returned to being mundane.

It isn’t really of course – see my recent post about a holiday in Mauritius. Plus how could life POSSIBLY be mundane with a four month old Miniature Schnauzer in the house whose main mission in life is to steal our laundry.


But what has happened is that I have been through the expat cycle to the point where life here has become normal. It is hectic, a constant round of swimming and horseriding and sleepovers and play-dates. When I am not working or writing blogs I am booking flights, hotels and car hire (there is a LOT of that here), running to the shops, trying to top up my phone AGAIN, chasing some workman or another, attempting to register to vote in the UK elections, taking the dog to the vet, filling out a school form….you get the idea, it’s a normal, busy family life. That happens to be in South Africa now and not a town in the west of England.

So how does this make me feel? In a way a little sad as I loved the early days when every bird was interesting, seeing the zebras on the way to horseriding was something to put on Facebook. Eating out was always a treat, discovering new coffee shops and trying new wines was something that made me happy. It still does, but these things happen less often and aren’t quite so unique. As I am sure happens with everyone, eventually your new expat life returns to some form of normality and in my case seems even busier than it used to be (possibly thanks to the addition of lively puppy).

My message thus to new expats is to enjoy it, soak it up, because before long it won’t seem special or new or exciting any more. But with a word of caution – just like those annoying people who tell you to enjoy every second of your new baby because before you know it they will be all grown up, this advice probably isn’t terribly welcome if you are struggling in your new home. So to these people I would say just wait, get through this bit, perhaps try and find something interesting or new or even just different as often as you can and make a note of it. It may not mean much now, it might not bring any light into your life. But when you are ready it or they will be there waiting.

Just like my mousebirds in the tree.

My Expat Family

Charity and Nicole – a wonderful expat tale.

Whenever I think about the many places I have lived over my years I am reminded of the domestic staff we had at the time: Enca the cook in Manila, Arricelli in Caracas, Anne Marie in Kingston, Ansa my saviour in Islamabad, and now here in Pretoria Sarna who keeps the house clean and  me sane at the same time with her company and funny tales.   They play such a huge part in our lives and yet so little is heard from them. All these people have stories of their own and when I get the chance I love to talk to them about their lives, their upbringing and also about things like their take on current politics. After all, what better a place to get a feel for the thoughts of the “man on the street” than from someone who is out there living it?

So I was delighted when I came across the story of two women right here in South Africa, German expat Nicole and her Zimbabwean helper Charity, who have collaborated to produce a book about Charity’s life. As far as I am aware this is a unique product but do let me know if you think otherwise. But in the meantime I leave it up to Charity and Nicole to tell their story and why they have produced this amazing book together:

Charity Musayani - Coverfoto 800 dpi

It´s a common situation on the African continent and in many other places around the world: A family has a domestic helper, a nanny or a gardener, often staying with them under the same roof. For many years they might be living on the same grounds, spending the day together, but how much do they really know about each other’s lives? We are not aware of the path that this person went along before ending up in our household.

First of all, how did this project come about? Who came up with the idea and what was the inspiration for it?

Charity got to read all these books in the house, because we didn´t provide her with a TV. Many different stories, lots of them stories about women. Women on all continents in all situations. So suddenly one-day Charity comes up to me and asks/says if she shouldn´t write down her story. We had a short chat about it and I really liked the idea a lot. So I encouraged her. I got her a notebook and two pencils and then obviously she sat down and started it.

How did you work together – Charity, did you tell Nicole your story? How hard (or easy!) was it working together?

Charity: I sat down in my room many nights and weekends writing down my story into a notebook, handwritten. When this was finished, Nicole provided me with a laptop and showed me how to type and save. As I was only typing with one finger, it took forever. My daughter, who is attending IT school in Harare came over in her school break for two weeks and typed the whole rest that was left for me. We sat together many, many hours. It was tough times also, because she learnt so much more in detail about her mother´s life. Many tears rolling down our cheeks during that time. Only when everything was saved in a word document, Nicole got to read my story. During the time of writing I often asked her about her opinion on certain types of writing, which we discussed then.

Nicole: Only after Charity´s whole book was digitalized, I started reading and correcting it. We often sat together, when Charity had to explain to me what she wanted to say and how certain African traditions work… I often needed to ask about types of food that are described. It was a very interesting process. We worked very hard.

Here is a story, the story of Charity, of her life, that is really touching. It´s the story of a not so ordinary Zimbabwean woman. Charity was born in 1972 and although her childhood wasn´t very easy she succeeded in getting a decent job. Unfortunately she picked a difficult husband, she lost a child and soon life was turned upside down. But still Charity could afford a maid looking after her household and her two kids while she was working. One day she made one big wrong decision. She gave up her job to go out and dig for gold. That didn´t bring her any luck and life got worse. Trying to survive with her family she ended up risking her life in the diamond fields. Also without any success. She went through extreme times in Mozambique, trapped by her own family. Many times betrayed she finally ends up in South Africa. Now working as a maid herself.

How important do you think it is for this story to be heard – not just for Charity but for all the women like her out there?

It might be a typical story of many women out there that went through similar stages or situations in life. But I still think that Charity´s life was/is very interesting to tell, because she went through so many different types of struggle, in different countries, that she managed to get through and always got out of it somehow. Always and forever having her two kids in mind and mostly wondering about their wellbeing.

What can we (as expat employers of domestic staff around the world) learn from Charity’s story? What would you like us to take away from it?

The story/book will give an expatriate an inside/background on what a woman in their household might have gone through before ending up in their house. I can only speak for Charity, but it seems to me that she just works to get a good education for her kids, that´s the most important for her. Because she knows she doesn´t have a retirement fund or similar. Her kids are her guarantee for later. If they will not be able to feed their own families and Charity, she will have a problem. She knows that she needs to finish her house in Zimbabwe and pay for their education. All she wishes for is that they will have a better, easier future/life than she had. And sure, that they will be able to look after her, when she is too old to earn her own money one day.

Charity – what would you like to see for your own future, and that of your children and grandchildren?

Charity: I want to have a better life. If I manage to finish my house I know I would have the possibility to rent out a room and earn some monthly income to get me food, even if my children wouldn´t be around, when I am older and back in my home country. Kids should have a good education and I hope that my ones can finish their courses one day and get a chance for a decent job.

I am very proud of my kids. They are always studying. Although I can only barely afford to send one of them to school at the moment, they still sit together in the afternoon at home and share their knowledge. My daughter, who is one year older, is still going to IT school and doing very well. I hope that I will be able to pay for her school fees in the future. I managed to pay for a driver licence for my son, but at the moment he is the one staying at home and studying the books for a ACCA course. Maybe I can pay for his exam fees also one day.

So a better and more stable future for the three of us, that´s what I am hoping for.

I understand Nicole is leaving soon (to go to Germany?) – will you stay in touch?

We sure will stay in touch. We have this important project going on together which is long not finished. There is still a long way to go and we will go it together. I am still looking for a publisher for the printed book for Charity.

My plan is also to translate the book in German for her. And maybe I can find a publisher for her in a Germany then.

To find out more about the book and to buy a copy please click here.

Six months in to my new expat life

I’ve been in Pretoria for six months. Six months and four days, to be precise. I didn’t actually notice on the day we reached our six-month milestone – we are so busy and wrapped up in our life here, it passed me by completely. Which has to be a good thing! No-one’s first half year in a new country is all sweetness and light, and I have had my fair share of downs as well as ups. On the whole though, I think I have got off pretty lightly in the “difficult first six months” department, certainly compared to other places I have lived.

Looking back, it seems incredible that only six short months ago I felt like the helpless toddler that I described in this post – Starting expat life: feeling like a child again.

Or even the pre-teen I was when I wrote this post, three months later: How far I have come.

But am I an adult yet? Well, perhaps not quite – but I certainly feel like someone who knows their way around, is comfortable negotiating daily life here and even feels ready to give advice to newcomers. And so, to mark my six months anniversary in Pretoria, here is a list of some of the things I have learned so far from our time in South Africa:

  • You can get used to living with a high level of personal security. I don’t really think twice now about all the keys, padlocks and bolts we have to open and close to get in or out of the house. I automatically lock my car doors every time I drive anywhere. I am always aware of who is around me, and if a car is acting suspiciously on the road behind me. I never have my handbag open, I put money away when I get it out from the ATM before walking away. You do have to live in a sort of state of high alert all the time, but it doesn’t ruin your life. Having said that, one of the things I am most looking forward to when I return to the UK for a holiday is walking out of my front door at night, simply closing it behind me, and walking….
  • A GPS is a damn fine thing – it brings you freedom in a way no map can. Up until now I have eschewed these relatively new items of technology: early experiences with one back home in the UK when they were still called SatNav’s were not good: they fell off the window; you could never get a signal; they took you down ridiculously narrow roads leading nowhere. But here they have been a revelation – allowing me to go anywhere I wish, knowing that not only will “James”, “Kate” or “Sarena” get me there, but they will help guide me home too. I love my GPS so much I even wrote a whole post about it.
Always ready to go....

Always ready to go….

  • Culture shock comes in many guises. I think I have suffered more from the differences in the school community we are now part of than in the differences of South Africa itself. The school is an American international school so we are having to learn about a whole new curriculum and a whole new way of doing things. Many of the frustrations I have felt since arriving here have been directed at the school. That isn’t to say I haven’t felt culture shock in other ways and places, but perhaps this was the least expected. I’m not sure yet where I am in the culture shock “cycle” with the school but I would guess somewhere between negotiation and adjustment..
  • South African politics and race relations has to be one of the most complicated in the world. You think you know a place….and then you move there. We all followed what was going on here durning the Mandela years, followed his release from prison, the election that brought him to power….and then so many of us stopped watching. I think we thought it was all resolved and everyone would live happily ever after. Of course, something like Apartheid is going to leave a massive legacy that is going to take decades, if not centuries, to unravel. There are problems on all sides of the political spectrum and underlying everything is the question of race. Never have I felt so aware of my skin colour on an ongoing, daily basis. As an outsider it is fascinating. But for the average South African there are difficult times ahead. I hope the “rainbow” nation holds together as when it works, it truely shows the world how things can be done.
Laundry day in Soweto - the racial divide is alive and kicking in South Africa, although the antics of the ANC government mean things are not as straightforward as they seem....

Laundry day in Soweto – the racial divide is alive and kicking in South Africa, although the antics of the ANC government mean things are not as straightforward as they seem….

  • It doesn’t matter if you live in the most wonderful place in the world and go on the most incredible trips every few months – your children will still be children. They will still have tantrums even on safari. I know this from (bitter) personal experience.
  • Living without airconditioning when it is 43 degrees isn’t much fun. Again, bitter personal experience.
  • All Netflix’s are not created equal. There is Netflix UK and there is Netflix US and then there is Netflix SA. We got all excited when Netflix SA arrived and joined up to see what it was all about.  On recommendation from friends, we got stuck into Narcos – which, if you haven’t seen it, is excellent. But knowing it would come to an end pretty soon I started asking around to see what other shows people would recommend. The suggestions came in thick and fast, mostly from my friends in the UK. I got all excited, thinking that for just a fiver a month we would be able to watch all sorts of fabulous shows. Only to find out that you can’t get most of them here in South Africa. Ah well, back to the drawing board it is then (luckily the local TV service DSTV actually has some pretty good shows and we are currently getting into Billions and the second series of the Leftovers).

There are, of course, many others things I have learned since living here. I know the sound of a displaying weaver bird. I recognise when a huge black cloud means hail, and when it means just rain. I understand a bit more about what happened during the Apartheid years, and why there is a whole generation here whose education was messed up. I know which shops I need to go to for cleaning products, and which for food. I even know where to get the best type of puppy food (less than four weeks now until the puppy arrives!). However, there is – of course – still a LOT that I don’t know.  A HUGE amount. And so I start the second six months of our time here with lots of unanswered questions: why DOES the weaver bird keep destroying his beautifully crafted nest? Who WILL people be voting for in the next set of elections? Just how cold DOES it get in the winter here? How likely AM I to see whalesharks in Mozambique????

Yup, the next six months look like they are going to be as much fun as the first.

My Expat Family

Self-drive Kruger safari with kids: the beginners guide

I won’t pretend to be an expert on Kruger, one of the largest and best-known national parks in the world. There must be millions, if not squillions, of words already written about this amazing place – not to mention the many photographs taken and published by Kruger-lovers around the globe.

No, I certainly am no expert, after all, we have only been once and then for only six days. However, as a total beginner, there were a few things I would have found useful to know before we left – especially for those who, like us, were taking children. So, here is my guide to how to survive a Kruger self-drive holiday with kids.


Warthoglets – December is a great time to go to Kruger to see lots of newborn animals

Plan plan plan

The first thing you need to do before booking your trip to Kruger is to plan ahead. A long way ahead. If you are self-driving and staying in SANPark (South African National Parks) restcamps (as we did), you may need to book your accommodation up to a year in advance. If you are staying in private lodges (which are a lot more luxurious but not what this particular post is about) you can probably book closer to the date of travel. But the restcamps are extremely good value for money starting as low as ÂŁ20 a night – which is what makes Kruger so accessible. And so affordable.

You may be stuck with certain dates to visit the park/South Africa depending on the age of your kids. But even so it is worth looking at what different times of the year are like: the summer (the northern hemisphere’s winter) can be extremely hot in South Africa: temperatures in Kruger have been reaching up to 43 degrees celcius this week. The winter tends to be a lot chillier at night but can still have lovely sunny days. There also tends to be less vegetation, making it easier to spot wildlife. School holidays will always be the busiest time – take a note of South African school holidays.


Where to stay?

So once you have decided when you want to visit Kruger, I suggest you start thinking about how long you want to be “on safari” for and which camps you want to visit. To help with this, have a look at the SANParks website – their Kruger section is a wealth of information, including forums where you can ask any question you like. I also used guidebooks, maps, personal recommendations, TripAdvisor…..

Even so, it can be incredibly confusing to decide where to go. For a start, think about distances. As a rule of thumb you will probably travel at about 25 mph in the park – speed limits are low on all the roads and you will have many interesting things to stop and look at along the way. Five or six hours in a car at a time is enough for most people, so you probably won’t want to travel too often between distant camps.


Braai’ing at the Oliphants rest camp

For our first trip we decided to stay at just three camps – Lower Sabie for one night, Oliphants for two nights, Satara for two nights and then back to Lower Sabie for another night. This gave us the chance to explore the more popular southern part of the park, which is best known for having a higher number of animals. We thought with children it was better to see as much as possible – going for any length of time without sitings could get a little tedious for them.

In terms of what is on offer at the restcamps, the SANPark website has all the details. Accommodation includes very nice rondevals and bungalows (ranging from 2-bed up to larger family guesthouses), cheaper rooms without kitchens, permanent tents and campsites. We always went with the rondavels, which each had bedrooms, bathrooms, fans and aircon, kitchenettes and somewhere to sit outside with a cold beer and watch the sunset. They weren’t luxurious, but they were comfortable and clean.

Location of the rooms can also be important. In some camps, for example, you can stay right on the perimeter with fantastic views of rivers, out onto the park, or the sun setting in the evening. Take a look at the maps to see where each bungalow is placed and chose the one closest to the views. At least, that is what my recommendation would be!


Elephants on their way to the Oliphants river, viewed from our bungalow

The bungalows all come equipped with plenty of kitchen equipment – pans, cutlery, plates, various types of glasses, Braai tongs etc. Also dish clothes, washing up liquid, all sheets and towels…..the only thing they didn’t have which we would have found very helpful was a colander for draining pasta and potatoes…


As with all holidays, mealtimes are very important. As we were self-catering we knew we would have to bring a certain amount of food into the park with us. We also didn’t have much room in the car so we decided to divide our meals between cooking for ourselves and eating in the restaurants in the camp (all the ones we ate at were run by the local franchise Mugg and Bean, which is generally pretty good). We had a large ice box, bringing a ready cooked meal for our first night and then some frozen meat for subsequent nights. We were able to re-freeze ice packs every night as each kitchenette included a fridge freezer.

There are shops selling food in the camps but they are quite basic so don’t rely on them to stock up too much. They did have quite a lot of wine and beer choice though! We bought bread, rusks, frozen yoghurt, milk and other bits and pieces in the rest-camp shops and also restocked on the one occasion we left the park to try and get our car fixed (a long story!).


Cheeky monkey at a picnic stop

Most days start early so we made sure we had coffee, hot chocolate, flasks, rusks etc so could stop for a coffee break after an hour or two at one of the picnic or get-out stops. Many South Africans have a full-on cooked breakfast mid-morning but as nice as it looked, it also seemed like quite a faff. Sitting with a cup of coffee or picnic lunch watching elephants washing in a river below was certainly worth doing though!

Getting around

Of course if you are doing a self-drive safari, you need something to drive around in. We drove our seven-seater car up from Pretoria as my parents were staying so we needed the space. If you are coming from overseas, you will need to hire a car. The roads in Kruger are excellent, all either tar or relatively smooth gravel (with some corrugated parts). You won’t need a four wheel drive but I would get the most comfortable car you can afford – you will be spending a lot of time in it!

Many people fly into Johannesburg and hire a car from the airport. If you do this, be aware that it is a long drive to Kruger so you might want to plan to stay a night in Joburg before you leave for the park or along the way. There are lots of places on the road to stop to eat, stock up with food and fill your car with petrol. There are also petrol stations at some of the larger rest camps.

Another choice is to fly to one of the airports near Kruger, from which you can pick up a hire car. This cuts out a lot of travelling if you are only in South Africa for a short time, but of course adds cost for the extra flight.


You won’t need a big car to see the big animals….

We did come across one breakdown in the park, plus heard stories of a few more, so make sure you know what to do if you did get car trouble. There is a mechanic based in the park (at Lataba) who will come to you if necessary. We know this because the airconditioning in our car stopped working halfway through the holiday. We did try and get it fixed but in the end we just went with the open-window option. It probably made for a better experience as we really were up close with the sounds, sights and even smells of the bush! But make sure you have some way of communicating and keep the numbers of the camps and parks with you at all times, particularly as you get closer to dark.

Also make sure you get a good map and/or route book. We used this one that I bought in Pretoria before we left for Kruger – it details every single road in the park, with information about what you can see and a star rating to give you help in planning your route. There are smaller and cheaper versions available to buy in the park itself.

You can also book game drives and walks (although the walks are generally only for children aged over 12) from the camps at very reasonable prices. The evening and night drives in particular can be a great way to see the park after dark as the camp gates close to the public after sunset.


The sun sets on 2015

What will you see?

This I can’t tell you because this is the beauty of the self-drive safari. You just never know what is round every corner – it could be an empty road, or it could be a road full of baboons or zebras!


You will almost certainly see plenty of these:


But hopefully you will also see some of these


As well as the above, plus another two excellent leopard sightings, we also saw plenty of lions – including two who just trotted out of the bush ahead of us and disappeared up the road with us following slowly behind; two serval; lots of hyena, countless hippos, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, buffalo, elephants, impalas, steenbok, kudu, waterbuck, crocodiles, monkeys, baboons, mongoose……it really was non-stop wildlife.

My parents, who came with us, are big bird fans and managed to clock up around 120 different types of birds during the week. Even though the rest of us aren’t so keen, there were some birds that we all agreed were interesting enough to stop for:


Ground hornbills – sort of half turkey, half crows….with red faces….

And what about the kids?

Of course, all parents know that when they plan a holiday they have to make sure the children will be happy – or everyone will be miserable! A self-drive holiday like this can be difficult with small kids: generally you will be in the car for hours at a time; you can only get out at designated spots so no unscheduled toilet breaks; and there isn’t an awful lot to do at the camps in between drives. Here are my tips for taking kids on a self-drive safari with you:

  • Don’t take your children at all unless you know they are ready for it. I don’t want to give an age as every child is different, but I wouldn’t have taken our just-turned eight year old before this year.
  • Book camps with pools, especially in the summer. We found a dip in the pool after a game drive was a fantastic way to cool off and also for the kids to let off steam. Some of the pools were less busy, and nicer, than others – our personal favourite was the one at Oliphants as it wasn’t too crazy. Satara, on the other hand, was bursting with people. We were there at the busiest time though.
  • Have lots of pens, paper, books, tablets etc in the car to keep your children amused when pickings are sparse outside the window.
  • Don’t forget snacks, especially for the early morning drives. We found the behavour of our youngest improved dramatically once we had given her something to eat in the morning. Always keep lots of water in the car too. We took hot chocolate to make for them at the morning stops when the adults had coffee.
  • Invest in some child-friendly binoculars and possibly a camera for them before the trip. Make sure they have got the photo they need before moving on – we learned from our mistakes that to do otherwise could lead to tantrums! There are bird and animal-spotting guides for children available in the shops at the rest camps, as well as lots of books, some games etc.
  • Remember that malaria can be an issue in this part of South Africa. There are generally more mosquitos in the summer when it usually rains more (although not this year, when we are in the middle of a pretty devastating drought – which did at least keep mozzies to a minimum). Some people chose not to take any prophylactics at all and just use spray and cover up as much as possible. We decided to use the pills, but certainly speak to a health professional about it before you chose what to do.
  • Be flexible!!  I know this is such a cliche but this should be the case for every holiday with children and in particular something like this. You may want to get up at the crack of dawn every day to get the best chance to see animals; but it might not work out if your kids won’t get out of bed. You could take it in turns to stay behind with the children if there are enough of you. If the children are getting grouchy in the car, try and find a place to get out for a stop and let them move around a bit. If this doesn’t help, consider calling it a day.
  • If things do go a bit pear-shaped, remember that you are still having an experience that you will almost certainly all look back on fondly. Your kids will be gaining so much from being in a place like Kruger and observing the animals in their natural habitat that you can forgive the odd difficult moment knowing that the overall benefit to all will be immense. Kruger is a very special place and any child who gets to go there is very lucky indeed 🙂


Enjoy the small things

Finally, I wanted to mention something that I think is so important to your overall enjoyment of a self-drive safari, which is not only to look out for the “big stuff” (the predators, the Big 5, the rhinos etc) but also to enjoy the small moments. Some of our favourite memories from our holiday included watching a newborn wildebeest calf wobble to its feet as the vultures and jackals circled, then trot off after its mother leaving disappointed scavengers in its wake; a water hole surrounded by frustrated zebra desperate for a drink but unable to get close to the water thanks to the group of hyenas who had taken up residence in the pool; and a group of monkeys including tiny babies bouncing all over Satara rest camp early one morning like a group of rowdy pre-teens, the older ones jumping up and down the trees and rough-and-tumbling with each other, the youngsters mimicking their elder siblings from a much safer height…..


Baby monkeys learning to play

All in all, it was a magical holiday. Not only did we see a fantastic variety of wildlife as well as plenty of beautiful scenery, we also spent some really quality family time together away from all distractions like phones and computers (there is wifi and signals at the camps but I decided just to turn my phone off for the duration!). It was a real escape, a perfect opportunity to recharge our batteries and the best possible start to our first full year in South Africa.

I have already started planning our next trip there!

Have you been to Kruger, or on a self-drive safari? Do you have any tips to add? If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask me 🙂

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The perfect safari?

When we came to South Africa we knew we would see animals. Probably quite a lot of them. And so far we haven’t been proved wrong. It has been an animal smorgsboard from day one.

baby ellie

This baby elephant was just a few days old. I wasn’t allowed to take it home

But I don’t think I believed we would ever have such a great time as we did in Madikwe recently – a fantastic, malaria-free (this is important because the most-famous park, Kruger, isn’t), “Big 5” game reserve just four hours drive from Pretoria.

Madikwe is a well-managed park: to “safari” there you need to be staying at one of the lodges, and the guides all coordinate so there is never more than two vehicles at a siting at once. Sometimes they keep it to just one. This certanly gives the reserve an air of “exclusivity,” although I can’t pretend you don’t pay for this privilege.

Anyway with  30 lodges to chose from, it wasn’t going to be easy to decide where we would spend our three nights in the park. But luckily only a few are regarded as “child-friendly”, with several not accepting children at all. Plus, we had heard wonderful things about the Bush House – and in particular it’s underground hide, which allowed you to get within spitting distance of the elephants. So close in fact that often all you could see were their feet!

We stayed for three nights in Madikwe, and went on six game drives in that time (three in the morning, three in the afternoon). Each drive lasted more than three hours so in total we spend more than 18 hours sitting on our bums in an off-road vehicle. But it never felt that long – there was so much to see that the time always passed quickly, plus the stops for Amarula-filled coffee in the morning and sundowners in the evening helped!

morning coffee

Amarula with your coffee? I won’t say no!

We were woken every morning at 5am by a tap on the door from our trusty guide Greg. Now usually it’s impossible to get our younger daughter out of bed at 6am to go to school – but here she was up and dressed in no time each day: although the drives were long (and she ended up taking a book to occupy herself during the quieter moments!), she was excited as the rest of us to see what that morning would hold!

baby zebra

Baby zebra foal – probably just a few hours old.

Each morning’s game drive followed a similar pattern – we would usually try and follow up on one or two leads that Greg had already established from communicating with other guides, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Once we had a good “sighting” under our belts, he would take us on a drive somewhere different each day – before stopping for coffee with the much-welcomed Amarula addition. We were incredibly lucky and saw some fantastic animals during our three days – like this leopard:


This guy was found because of his rather ostentatious dinner hanging in a nearby tree – leopards are well known for dragging carcasses up trees and leaving them there for when they feel like a bite to eat later. Nevertheless, we would never have spotted him hiding in a nearby bush, their camouflage is fantastic. It is at times like these that you really appreciate the skills of your highly-trained guides.

We also found a number of lions during our stay – two brothers who seemed to “rule the roost” one evening, a group of ladies another and finally another small pride complete with cubs on a third outing! It really did feel like quite a privilege.


As well as the “big” sightings, we also enjoyed seeing some of the smaller animals in the park – like a rather large scorpion spotted by my husband, a weedy little snake seen by me, a leopard tortoise viewed by us all and this pair of dung beetles rolling their dung (the male apparently doing all the work!) first sighted very proudly by my youngest daughter:

dungg beetles

We saw so much it is hard to choose which pictures to share, but there were two sightings that probably stood out (as well as the leopard). The first was our amazing encounter with the park’s only pack of wild dogs (70% of the reserve’s dogs were sadly wiped out last year by rabies).

Greg had heard there were dogs in the area so we headed in the direction they had been briefly seen and patrolled slowly up and down the track by the bush, looking and listening for signs that we were in the right place. Suddenly – a howl! Greg and another guide made a little foray into the bush (we all stayed sensibly on the truck) and found exactly where they were! The pack had just killed a kudu and were in the process of chowing down. Apparently this is a quick process and they would be gone within ten minutes. So, beating back the thorn bushes as best we could, the vehicle drove into the bush and within metres of the dogs. Thanks to the great way the park is manged, they show no fear at all of the trucks – allowing us to get some brilliant photos (which would have been even better had our longer lens not decided to jam the day we arrived in Madikwe!)

wild dog with ear

Wild dog pup proudly shows off his kudu ear!

We observed the wild dogs for about five minutes before moving off and allowing another brave truck to make the thorny-route into the clearing where they were polishing off the remains of their dinner. A truely magical experience!

The other sighting which will remain with me was of a caracal. A caracal is a lynx-like wild cat which is apparently rarely seen. As we came across it quite by chance, this spot really did feel very special:


We were able to sit quietly and watch this beautiful cat as it made its way round in circles, marking its territory, completely nochalent about the car full of humans sitting and watching him go about his business!

So all good things must come to an end and we finally reached our last night at the Bush House. We had had some great game sightings but, due to the fact that it had recently, rained the lodge’s waterhole was quieter than usual (the game finding their water in other places). However, the last night came good and we had a parade of animals – elephants, rhino and a huge herd of buffalo – making their way down to the hole. It was truely a magnificant way to end an amazing holiday!

buffaloes at night

If you are visiting South Africa I can thoroughly recommend the Bush House (even families with younger children can be accommodated – a Dutch family staying at the lodge with us had organised private game drives with their three-year-old). We will be going on a self-drive tour to Kruger later this year, malaria tablets and all. I am sure it will be a totally different experience, not least of all trying to work out how to feed us all for six days! But if it is ease and relaxation you are after then look no futher than Madikwe.


More quirky things I love about South Africa…

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about some of the “quirkier” aspects of South African life that I have grown to love. Or at least if not love then tolerate! As I said then, it is only when you are new to a country that you notice these things – so I thought I would get them down on paper the screen before the weird things became normal to me.

Anyway, having written one such post, I couldn’t help noticing more and more head-scratching things as I went about my daily life. That, combined with some of the suggestions I received in the comments section of my last post, has led me to decide I need to do a Quirky post part two. So here it is!


1. They wrap their trees in pink. Why? I have no idea! Obviously not ALL their trees, but at intervals around Pretoria you will find these pink wrapped trees, for no apparent reason. At first I thought it was an advert for a close-by boutique. But then I kept seeing more and more of them. I don’t recall seeing any in Cape Town or Johannesburg so perhaps it’s a Pretoria phenonemon. If anyone knows why they do this please let me know!


2. (As suggested by a reader) They employ people to stand at roadworks and wave red flags to slow people down. ALL DAY LONG. Boy do I feel sorry for these people. They must have the strongest arms in the world by the end of their shifts. But how boring must their job be! What goes through their heads? Do they count blue cars, white cars, cars with roof racks? Are they silently writing novels in their minds? I try and make myself feel better when I see these poor souls by thinking they are probably happy to have a job at all, and one they can do relatively easily. But all I feel is sympathy. Let’s just hope they are allowed to be rotated with some of the other roadwork people, like the ones that get to move the signs….

3. And in a similar vein – car guards! Men in high-viz jackets who hang around your cars and then hope you will pay them a few measly rand for “guarding” your car and then “helping” you to back out of a space (I am actually far more worried I am going to hit the car guards than hit another car when this happens). They also stand in the middle of the roads and desperately try and wave you down and get you to park in one of “their” spaces by the side of the road, even if you have no intention of parking any where at all at that particular point in time. Sometimes I feel like pulling in, parking, sitting in my car for a minute, giving them some change and then leaving just to make them happy.

4. Monkey-gland sauce. What is it? I have no idea and I have no intention of ever trying it! I am fairly sure it has never actually been near a monkey but there again….

5. And while we are on the subject of food, their obsession with bacon and banana on pizza. Actually it makes a lot of sense, after all, the sweet-salty combo can work very well: ham and pineapple, gammon and honey-glaze etc. But this one is totally new to us and somehow banana on a pizza? Hmmm, I am not sure – although my daughter tried it and seemed to like it…


6. Impala poop spitting. Okay, I actually had to Google this one – it was suggested by fellow-blogger Joburg Expat who wrote her own blog post about it when she was living here. I still can’t quite believe it’s actually a thing but yes apparently do put pellets of dried impala poo (or Kudo poo, hopefully not human poo!) in their mouths and then spit it. Ok, that’s quirky!

7. Shoeless children. This isn’t confined just to South Africa but must be a southern hemisphere thing as I have also seen this in Australia and New Zealand. Children walking around bare foot all over the place – shops, malls, outside on the pavement, restaurants…and I’m not talking about children who look like they can’t afford shoes – these are well-dressed children who look like they come from affluent backgrounds. I was once on an expat forum (made up mostly of expats in Europe) where most people were horrifed by this idea that children would walk around in a city barefoot – wouldn’t it be dirty? Germs! Bloody feet! Filth!!! But actually I quite like it, it is one of the things that epitomises the laidbackness of this part of the world. My oldest daughter is also getting quite into it and tries to sneak out of the house barefoot as often as possible – although I do draw the line at sending them to school shoeless!

8. Feta cheese. Another obsession which I don’t really understand. Now I quite like feta, especially in salads (actually what else do you do with it?). But I can’t understand why roughly half of their cheese sections in the supermarkets is made up of cartons, packs and containers of the stuff. Slimline feta, black pepper feta, herby feta, goats feta, good-old-plain-and-simple feta….If you like feta, this is certainly the place to come!


Yup, that’s ALL feta

9. Four-way stops. Driving here is relatively easy, but it’s still different. And one of the most different things is the four-way stops. Basically this is what we would call a crossroads but where none of the roads are main roads, all the roads are equal. And no roundabout. So no way of knowing who has a right of way. Which means you all stop and then someone eventually goes forward. If you reach the stop line before anyone else then  it’s usually obvious that you go first. But it doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes I find someone else is there first and yet they wait for me to arrive and wave me through. Are they just being polite? Is there a rule  I still don’t understand? Can they just see I am a crazed non-South African (I drive with Diplomatic plates) and therefore know the likelihood is I will get it wrong if they leave it to me? Who knows!

10. The weather. Mostly the weather here seems to be A1. Hot, sunny but dry – not humid like I was used to in the Caribbean. But then they have these strange thunderstorms – massively loud thunder, lots of lightning and then…. no rain! Or if it does rain it lasts about three minutes. And although the storms are huge they don’t really last very long either – usually around 30-45 minutes. All very polite really. We also recently had an enormous hailstorm – it managed to miss us in Pretoria but the huge hailstones caused huge damage in other parts of the region. And when I say huge I mean it – think golf-ball size. This is why we always keep our cars undercover.

11. Flour. Alright another strange thing to get worked up about but in every other country I have ever lived in there has been plain four and there has been self-raising flour (bar Pakistan where there was no self-raising anything). Here there is self-raising flour and then there is something called “cake flour”. What is this? Is it plain flour? Well it will have to be as I need it to bake with. So far my baking efforts have worked out okay, but I’m still not convinced. Once again, answers to this one in the comments section please!


12. And finally, another reader suggestion: hadedas. I had never heard of these birds before coming to South Africa. Now you can’t get through a day without hearing them. Basically they are like little miniature pterodactyl’s – squawking birds with long beaks that seem to argue at the top of their lungs outside our bedrooms every morning. They really are the loudest birds I have ever heard – the even put seagulls to shame. But they are also part of the “South African” experience and I have heard many homesick South Africans lamenting them as they talk about what they miss from home. Yeah, okay, they are quite unique in their own way. I just wish they would turn the volume down a bit!

So that’s it for now, 12 more quirky things about South Africa to add to my original list. But what have I missed? Go on, add your comments below 🙂

PS An update on chorizo from my last quirky post: I think someone from Woolworths was reading as suddenly proper, Spanish chorizo has appeared in their shops here. Huzzah!


Mr Weaver fails to attract a mate….

One of our favourite garden activities here in Pretoria is watching our resident weaver bird build a nest, in a desperate attempt to attract a mate. Basically, the male weaver skillfully creates an incredibly intricate round ball of a nest, stripping the tree of its leaves at the same time, and then madly displays (hanging upside down and shrieking) everytime the female he has his eye on comes anywhere close. This whole episode took place in our garden over the course of a weekend – the lady bird did come and have a look, even entering the nest at one point. But sadly she obviously wasn’t impressed because the next day, Mr Weaver totally destroyed his own masterpiece, leaving it in shreds on the floor (and in our pool, which is directly below his chosen tree).

He had another go a couple of weeks later, but was very half-hearted and didn’t even bother to finish it this time. The pair now seem to have disappeared altogether so either he’s given up completely or – which is what I hope has happened – he has built another nest in a more desirable area and they have happily settled down to have baby Weavers together. Here is a photo montage of the action:

Well, you can’t say he hasn’t tried at least!

Update: Since I originally wrote this post, Mr Weaver has made (and destroyed) about four more nests. Mrs Weaver is still around and has occasionally shown real interest im his latest creation. But it appears her standards remain too high as he is in the middle, once more, of tearing apart a nest that we thought looked pretty complete!

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